Soccer fans have the right to follow the league of their own choosing
THERE are some among us who from time to time heap the same scorn and criticism on those who prefer the English Premiership to the Absa Premiership.
The criticisms don’t normally carry much intellectual substance or understanding of the bigger picture, and are normally based on “being unpatriotic” or “failing a duty”, or “Eurocentric” or, yawn, “racist”.
Of course, it’s a two-way street, for those who prefer the English Premiership to the domestic league, will point to Kaizer Chiefs supporters ripping up chairs and throwing bottles onto Newlands.
That in itself is immature and off the mark, for generally speaking, South Africa’s club followers are among the best behaved.
Though there still has to be an educational process with regards to allocated seating for instance, something that the World Cup next year will go a long way to addressing.
However, every young player in this country aspires to playing in the best league in the world, against and alongside the best footballers. And because of the language, England is an obvious destination, though more often than not the stepping stones are the less glamorous European leagues.
Football in England however, is much more than a game. It’s an extension of who people are. You only have to spend one day in England to realise how huge football is – and it’s far bigger than in South Africa.
Every national newspaper and every regional newspaper will rather cover the back page (and a few inside) with football, even at the expense of Ashes cricket, World Championship athletics and the like. They do so because the public demands the saturated coverage.
In South Africa that isn’t the case, as rugby and cricket also vie strongly for column centimetres.
Such coverage inevitably spills over onto the internet, onto the TV stations and onto Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Anyone who is part of the screen generation won’t be able to get through a day without English football catching the eye. Again, that’s not the case with the Absa Premiership, so, whether you like it or not, there’s a drip-drip ingestion of the league in England.
It might be the same sport, but it’s like comparing rugby union and rugby league. The game is the same, the rules are different. But they can co-exist, because although someone prefers league to union doesn’t make him or her a sell-out to rugby.
So, the fact that I prefer the English Premiership to the Absa Premiership doesn’t make me a traitor to South Africa or “Eurocentric”.
If I had a choice, I would prefer to attend an English Premiership match as opposed to its South African cousin because of the experience.
I go to a game wanting to be entertained, wanting to join in with the antics of the crowd, wanting to escape for 90 minutes and then wanting to go have a beer.
In England, one of the greatest sights (and sounds) is a set of club fans squaring up against another set, not in terms of fists and feet, but with their wit.
They chant their way through the entire game and if you listen closely you will hear something that will have you split your sides with laughter.
In South Africa, such wit and chanting isn’t part of the occasion; here it’s more a case of stick a Vuvuzela to your lips and blow. In rugby, it’s either attempting a Mexican Wave or singing “ole, ole, ole”.
We might be passionate about our sport but we aren’t the most inventive when it comes to chanting. But while it’s pointless comparing the two Leagues, it’s just as pointless for Absa Premiership groupies to criticise those who prefer the English Premiership.