You know, it is very interesting to note how life seems to be going on for others as if nothing is happening in Port Elizabeth. I’m talking about Chairman Siviwe ‘Chippa’ Mpengesi’s Chippa United, who selflessly gave their home ground advantage away for a good cause.
The Nelson Mandela Bay-based DStv Premiership outfit decided to give their match venue to local government as a quarantine site since May 2020, in an effort to play their part in trying to flatten the COVID-19 curve. It was on November 29 when Chippa last played a league match in their home ground (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium) when they hosted Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC. They opened the Port Elizabeth-based stadium for the first time this year when they hosted Free State Stars in the Nedbank Cup Last 32. In essence, Chippa have played most of the first round league games away from home and this was simply because they, selflessly, decided to protect everyone from a potential spread of the Coronavirus as Port Elizabeth was regarded as one of the hotspots for this pandemic. The Chilli Boys, independently, decided to sacrifice their home ground advantage and play all their first round fixtures away from home until they were sure it was safe to return to their home ground. If this isn’t selflessness, then I don’t know what is. Also, this decision wasn’t taken because Sisa Dukashe wasn’t available, no. They could have easily decided to use their alternative venue, but the problem was with the growing number of infections in the Eastern Cape.
In a competitive league like the DStv Premiership, where home ground advantage is always a welcome boost, giving it away as easily as Chippa did becomes something to make noise about. They did the right thing, sacrificing a lot in the process, to make sure that they add their weight behind government’s efforts to curb this pandemic. They have been on the road for the better part of the season so far, with last week’s Nedbank Cup win being their first home game this year, while other teams have played half of their fixtures at home already. This has been a costly exercise for Chippa as they’ve not been getting any subsidy from anyone. They have to foot the bill for their home-away-from-home accommodation. They’ve been in a bio-bubble sort of an arrangement, based in Johannesburg and travelling to and from their games across the country. If they play Black Leopards in Thohoyandou, they travel from Johannesburg and return there after the game, waiting for the next fixture until there’s enough time between their last fixture and the next one, for the players to go home (Port Elizabeth) for a few days, before they’re back on the road again.
This is a really good story coming out of Chippa United but, surprisingly, it hasn’t been told loud enough. If Chippa had fired coach Dan Malesela, the club would be trending on social media and everyone would know about it. Obviously, this has become a trend and Chippa’s own doing, so I don’t blame anyone for it, but the least we can do is to be consistent. Yes, firing of coaches has become a regular own goal for Chippa, but we can’t broadcast his failures and whisper his success and good stories. They say perception is reality and that proves to be true. Whatever happens, Chippa will always be associated with firing of coaches, so much that good and positive stories such as this one will always be overlooked. Call it unfortunate, but it is the truth, a sad truth at that. You have to commend the club’s chairman and his management for showing such great leadership. It is easy for people to say the fact that there are no supporters at the match venues, it was easy for Chippa to make this decision and therefore it doesn’t affect them that much. That would be very naïve and short-sighted because a normal away game means you leave your home a day before the game and come back either straight after the game or the next morning. For Chippa’s players, that turnaround period can be anything from two weeks at times, which is completely different from anyone else. They don’t get to spend enough time with their loved ones and therefore have little to non-existent social life because of the team’s sacrifice and looking at the bigger picture. Credit to the players as well because, I’m told, when the management suggested giving their home ground advantage away, there were no objections from the players as they understood the bigger picture because, at the end of the day, for us to conquer this pandemic, everyone has to play their part.
On a positive note, this move has allowed the players to spend more time with their ‘new coach’ as they get to understand one another. It has allowed them to fast-track the process and it can only improve the team spirit. The results are there to prove this point. That said, we have to take our hats off for chairman Chippa Mpengesi and everyone at the club for their selfless and humanitarian contribution towards the fight against this pandemic. This was a bold move that came with a lot of financial implications and it is not easy to be away from your families for so long. Because of this expensive move, Chippa have protected a lot of teams that could have easily been exposed to the danger of contracting this virus from their visits to the COVID-19 hotspot. More and more people would have been at risk, as the visiting players, team officials, match officials and broadcasters would have to go back to their families after the game and possibly continue with the rapid spread of the virus. That’s why we can’t overlook the significance of this selfless decision by Chippa United because they aren’t only protecting the visitors but themselves as well. All things considered, this wouldn’t have been an easy decision to make, but they understood that lives are more important than money and home ground advantage. It would have been within Chippa’s rights to remain in PE, save money and play all their home games at home, but they decided against it, for everyone’s sake and safety. Thank you, Chairman Mpengesi and the club. No one knows what would have happened had you not taken this decision.