Taking The Game Back To The People
Supporters play a major role in the success or failure of any football club. They rally behind their coach and players on match day, and help them pick up the pieces when the going gets tough. Essentially, without the supporters there’s no club football, and without club football there’s no national team football.
Despite travelling the length and breadth of the country supporting their teams, the supporters seldom have much say in how their teams are run, or how the game is played. Hardly anyone listens to them, yet they continue to rally behind their teams, hoping that the status quo will eventually change. An example of this is what has happened with Moroka Swallows, one of the oldest teams in the country with a rich footballing history, now on the verge of dropping below the National First Division as they currently languish at the bottom of the NFD log with only five games to go. The pain and suffering caused by the team’s relegation has just been too much to bear. Sadly, the powers-that-be never listened to the supporters when they raised their concerns and tried to prevent the demise of this once-great club. Ironically it is now the same supporters who are expected to play a massive role in helping the team escape the quagmire they currently find themselves in. What’s in it for the supporters? Emotional breakdown, exasperation, high blood pressure, stress and everything else that comes with being neglected!
Last week we commemorated the 2001 Ellis Park disaster, in which 43 passionate football fanatics lost their lives due to a stampede in the Soweto Derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. These were people who hoped for an enjoyable game of football and to return home safely to their loved ones, not knowing that their goodbyes would actually be forever. What has South African football done for those who lost their loved ones? Very little, and life goes on…
It is on the back of this unhappy realisation that, for the first time in this week’s edition of Soccer Laduma, we decided to gather more of the voices of the country’s passionate football-loving supporters. We want to ensure that they can’t only air their views through our ‘Make Your Point’ section, but also feature in two of our most important pieces in this week’s paper. We decided to show our appreciation of their loyal support which has lasted for almost two decades by speaking directly to them ahead of the much-anticipated Nedbank Cup quarter-final fixtures this week, instead of players, coaches or club officials. After all, they are the ones who will be paying their hard-earned money to go and watch the games, so they too have a significant role to play in their outcomes.
We also speak to the Amakhosi nation through six of the club’s prominent supporters, who represent the club’s throngs of supporters. In this feature we discuss some of the pertinent issues which have been affecting the team and its supporters, and the vocal supporters openly discuss some of the problems they have identified at the team, which have resulted in the Naturena-based club experiencing one of its worst seasons ever! This is a first of its kind as the supporters’ voice will now surely be heard, with them being made to feel as important as they truly are.
We will be doing this more often with the supporters of other teams as well. Please feel free to write to me about what issues you’d like to discuss in the paper. This is what Soccer Laduma is all about – serving our readers to the best of our abilities. This is the key message our editor-in-chief, Peter Du Toit, has inculcated to the team from the first day I ever met him more than a decade ago. He always makes a point of reminding everyone in the office that our boss is the reader, who buys the paper and keeps us going, no one else. So whatever we do, it has to be with the readers’ best interests at heart!
As part of Soccer Laduma’s plans to plough back to the readers, we have started a number of projects that will look to improve our loyal reader’s lives. One of these projects is the Soccer Laduma Supporters Club, which provides a voice to the supporters, mobilises support for our Beautiful Game, as well as makes a difference in our communities.
We have also started Educate24, which looks to empower our readers and any other interested parties through formal online courses at affordable prices. This is a section which will assist even employed readers to further their studies and empower themselves.
We have also initiated our inter-township football tournament, which aims to unearth hidden gems in the rural areas and townships across the country. The vision is one day having a South African inter-rural league, where teams from rural areas from different provinces can face-off in an organised league. The project is still in its infancy and regular updates will be provided on our website as we go along. We have to take the game back to the people and this is going to need everyone’s support in order to make this dream a reality!
Because of the money generated from the sponsors, the gap between our teams and their respective supporters has widened. The multi-millions poured into the teams by the sponsors mean that gate takings aren’t as important now as they were back in the day. Subsequently, the supporters’ value to clubs has diminished because, even if a team averages 3000 supporters per game, as long as they have the backing of the sponsors, a club will still manage to survive. We have to bridge the gap because it is only when we are united as one that we are truly powerful!