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Saddam: 'I Smell Disaster'

Tonight, one of the country's biggest teams, Kaizer Chiefs, will take on Highlands Park. This game, however, will be different to most as they will be playing in a 10 000-seater stadium. This is something prominent Chiefs supporter Saddam Maake is not happy about.

Beaver Nazo: Hi Saddam, how are you doing?

Saddam Maake: Hi Beaver, I wish I was ok, but sadly I'm not.

BN: How can you not be when your team (Chiefs) is in your township tonight to take on Highlands Park at Makhulong Stadium, right on your door step?

SM: That is exactly the reason I'm not happy, Beaver, because I fear for supporters' lives. Taking Kaizer Chiefs to Makhulong was a mistake from the PSL. Chiefs and Pirates to Makhulong is gambling with supporters' lives. PSL teams all have alternative venues. They should've taken the game to either Mbombela or somewhere else. In 2010, there was a friendly game between South Korea and Nigeria and I was there, the stadium nearly collapsed. As it stands now, the tickets are sold out, but knowing supporters, they will not stand outside knowing that the game is on. Even in the recent game between Highlands Park against Baroka, people were pushing the gates. There's going to be a problem there. On 18 February 1991, 42 people died in Orkney's Oppenheimer stadium. I was there and experienced that. People have forgotten about that now. Again, at Ellis Park, 42 people died because there was a stampede. In Port Elizabeth in 1992, there was a stampede and the boards fell on top of players, Doctor Khumalo was one of the players who was hurt. Another 14 people died in front of me in Zimbabwe, when Bafana Bafana was playing Zimbabwe.

BN: Yes, I hear you, Saddam, go on...

SM: Beaver, Chiefs can lose three points tonight, but they will get three points in the next game, but when a supporter passes on, we cannot replace him or her. I am really shocked by the PSL's decision to put supporters' lives at risk. It's clear that they only inspect the playing pitch, not the stadiums. We are their customers, they should treat us as such.

BN: Hmm...

SM: Tembisa Branch alone will take more than half of that stadium and everybody in the township wants to be there when Chiefs play. And I hope there will be enough policemen, airforce and paramedics because I smell disaster here. I am not undermining Highlands Park, but appealing to the PSL. I hope they know what they have done and I don't wish for anything bad to happen, but I'm just stating the facts, I fear for my fellow supporters' lives because I don't wish to see a repeat of the incidents I mentioned.

BN: Thanks for the chat, Saddam, and good luck for tonight.

SM: Thank you, Beaver.

In the interest of fairness, there is another side to the argument. Most PSL games these days are played in front of empty stadiums. Full stadiums tend to provide fuller performances and South African stadiums are far too large generally for the crowds they attract. If managed properly, a game can be held successfully and safely at a smaller stadium and it may just be in the interest of better football to have smaller but more full stadiums. However, Saddam's words must also be reiterated – supporters' safety must come first.

Do you think games should be played in smaller stadiums in South Africa?


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