Teams need to redeem themselves
IN A sports-mad country like ours, today is supposed to be a red letter day. We are hosting three international matches: in rugby against New Zealand in Cape Town; in soccer against Burkina Faso in Joburg and in cricket against Bangladesh in Bloemfontein.
In Cape Town, if there is a full house, it will be for no other reason than that the All Blacks probably have their biggest single fan base outside of New Zealand there. The build-up to this, once the greatest rivalry in rugby, has been understandably muted, given the All Blacks’ ruthless 57-0 demolition of the Boks a fortnight ago in the reciprocal fixture.
In Joburg, the demand for tickets has been unequivocal – nobody’s interested. Scheduled for the majestic 90 000-seater FNB stadium, which ironically set a seating record in 2010 of 94 713 for the Boks- All Black clash, fewer than 1 000 had been sold by midweek.
We will see all too graphically on TV today when the whistle blows for the kick-off, whether organisers have been successful in the myriad initiatives they have employed to drum up support.
The danger, though, is not of bruised national pride, but the collapse of Bafana Bafana and the Springboks as viable entities.
Fans expect their teams to win; sponsors demand they win – for a return on their investment. Teams do experience ebbs and flows in their fortunes, as does everything and everyone else, but the stakes aren’t as high for us mortals as they are for the superstars who command our TV screens. When fans start turning away in their droves, the magical link between them and their team – and the tens of thousands of rand they spend supporting them and the millions of rand they represent to potential sponsors and advertisers go with them.
In the immortal words of Liverpool coach Bill Shankly: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
Safa and Saru’s administrators have their work cut out for them.