Bloemfontein Celtic, once again, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons with the ongoing rumour… scratch that… fact that the pride of the Free State is up for grabs!
Can you imagine Bloemfontein Celtic being bought and relocated, leading to their demise, just like it was the case with Mpumalanga Black Aces and others? Can you even begin to imagine South African football without the famous green and white group of passionate supporters singing and dancing behind their team through thick and thin? I shudder to even think about the possibility of this club’s identity and rich history going down the drain. Whatever happens, Celtic just can’t be lost to the game! The late Ntate Molemela must be turning in his grave with what has become of his former team. The Augousti family’s hearts must be bleeding to witness this brand going through such rough times!
If things don’t change, soon – sadly the possibility of this club vanishing into thin air will become a reality! Yes, the current management have issued a statement allaying any fears of losing the team but, as the old saying goes, there’s no smoke without fire! It would be the worst day for South African football if Celtic would be lost to the game. Our football would never be the same without that passionate bunch!
This is not the first time that this special club’s existence and location has been threatened with a couple of failed attempts to get the club’s Absa Premiership status to exchange hands. Sales of clubs’ franchise is nothing new in local professional football; however, not many will argue with the simple fact that Celtic is not just any other Premiership side. This is a special club. This is undoubtedly the one club with the supporters who mostly feel part of the family. No other club even comes close to matching Celtic when it comes to club-supporter relationship, at least until recently. The regular engagements between the club and the supporters have always been one of the trademarks of this club, but we’ve, sadly, noticed this culture evaporate in recent times with the two seemingly pulling in different directions. That’s unheard of in the history of this club, at least as far as my short time of following this club is concerned.
Out of all 32 professional football clubs, Celtic has been the flagship of what a people’s team should be all about. Their passionate supporters have always had a say in the running of the club, something most supporters can only dream of. They’ve always been in unison with whatever they’ve decided on. Whenever their views are not taken seriously or at least to their satisfaction, they always make it felt. However, until recently, Celtic have become a shadow of the once powerful brand that almost every South African football player would want to be associated with. Gradually, over the last few years, the gap between this passionate bunch of supporters and the club has widened to unprecedented proportions! There’s no longer any meaningful relationship between the club and the most important stakeholders, there’s no longer the Siwelele television show, where the club’s brand was enhanced, the team no longer commands capacity crowds in their home games, there’s also no longer any active involvement of the club’s supporters as their office was shut down. In essence, the love and passion that’s always separated this club from the rest is dead and almost buried! The club’s financial woes are well-documented and that doesn’t help the cause at all. However, all things considered, someone has to please come and save Celtic. Whoever gets to buy this club must learn from the previous mistakes and do an extensive consultation about what this team really means to the masses. It would be tragic for Celtic to leave Bloemfontein, let alone local football.
Now, TS Galaxy chairman, Tim Sukazi, has confirmed his interest and attempts to secure the club’s franchise which, if it goes through, will effectively signal the end of what has been a great football institution that has become part of South African football’s DNA. The former football agent has confirmed that he has signed a contract and just waiting on the league to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, although he’s also posed a challenge to anyone who feels they can rescue the team from collapsing and then keep them in Bloemfontein. He is, understandably and within his rights, on record saying if the purchase goes through, the club will relocate and play under his current team’s banner while the current Siwelele supporters would form an integral part of the new team and that they just can’t be lost to SA football. You can’t expect Sukazi to buy the team and keep it in the same location, when he’s got his own GladAfrica Championship side, TS Galaxy, based in Mpumalanga. If that was the case, we wouldn’t have Cape Town City today and Aces would still be around!
Celtic has become a way of life. Bloemfontein is the only City where you will hardly find any of the Big Three or any away team dominating. The famous green and white is the only colour combination you’re likely to see in the streets whether there’s football or not. I just can’t imagine the Absa Premiership without the vociferous Celtic supporters. Free State-born businessman, Lebo Mokoena, has raised his hand to try and save the situation by declaring his intention to stop the ownership of this club from exchanging hands and ultimately relocating. That’s such a huge sigh of relief and one hopes sanity will prevail and that the team remains in Bloemfontein because Bloemfontein is Celtic and Celtic is Bloemfontein! Let this special club go back to its former glory days and continue being trendsetters who exude a lot of passion, just the way football should be. This is the only team that continues to lead the way in defining a role of a true football supporter. Ask Steve Komphela, Mark Mayambela, Hlompho Kekana, Thapelo Morena, Thabo Nthethe and many others who were formerly on Celtic’s employ about the reception they continue to receive whenever they visit their former team. It is goosebumps stuff!