Monday, 27 August 2012

A sad night at the Orlando Stadium: The lessons South African football MUST learn from Saturday's violence

Pirates ahoy: the Orlando Stadium on Saturday night. Picture: IOL
There are vital lessons to be learned for South African football after Saturday night's troubled scenes following SuperSport United's shock 3-0 win over Orlando Pirates in a stormy MTN8 semi-final.
What happened on Saturday night – Benni McCarthy’s indiscipline, inept stewarding, poor security – cannot be glossed over as the club run by PSL Chairman Irvin Khoza attempts to put right Saturday’s on-field problems.
These are not the rantings of an angry fan of either side. I was at the game, in the midst of the Orlando Pirates fans, with my friend Khotso Ditshego. We witnessed every minute of the trouble, and the aftermath as we walked home from the ground close to midnight. I have seen trouble break out at games in England, Demark and France... and grew up amid serious football violence in South Africa in the dark days under Apartheid.
Determined action must be taken to avoid a repeat. But I fear it won't.
According to (neither they nor Laduma, the two biggest SA soccer sites mentioned the match-stopping violence in their match reports), Pirates have been fined a total of R361 000 for four incidents since March 2011, "yet the club keeps getting penalised for more or less the same small amount, with the majority suspended".
The whole situation highlights the conflict of interest inherent in having a club chairman running the national league, we can only hope the Iron Duke recognises that and allows a rigorous inquiry into what happened at his own stadium.
Instead I suspect we will hear all about how referee Robert Smith was suspended last year for failing to send off an unnamed Jomo Cosmos player for an apparent red card offence against AmaZulu.
Pirates coach Augusto Palacios has already suggsted Smith was at fault for infuriating the Ghost, but this is NOT about inept refereeing.
Though PSL head of communications Connie Motshumi suggests there WILL be disciplinary proceedings, I predict a small fine and a rap over the knuckles for the PSL champions.
But here's what should happen. Benni McCarthy, despite his twittered apology on Sunday, should be fined and suspended by the club on top of the regulation PSL punishment for red card. His actions, rushing over to confront Franklin Cale after a foul on Daine Klate, inflamed the situation and ultimately cost Pirates the match. To his credit, Benni has admitted as much on twitter.
Secondly, the stewards should hauled over the coals for failing to apprehend bottle throwers, inept searches of fans entering the stadium and allowing entry to drunken supporters. Instead, they simply stood and watched as the missiles came down. In Europe, stewards immediately make their way in to the fans - no matter how angry they are - and eject offenders from the ground.
I'm not saying the Orlando stewards weren't brave - just unprepared for the trouble and lacking training in how to deal with such situations. In Britain, stewards DON'T watch the football, they spend the entire game with their backs to the action looking for troublemakers. They act immediately to forcibly remove missile throwers, racist chanters and fights. That's why they're there. 
Thirdly, the public address announcer failed to call for calm or an end to the throwing of bottles and fireworks - even when the game was briefly suspended when Rowen Fernandez' goal came under fire. The PA announced substitutions throughout, but failed to respond to the growing violence.
Fourthly, fans in rival shirts belonging to a third team must be turned away. The thought of attending a Spurs v Chelsea game in an Arsenal shirt is just unthinkable in London. The practice MUST be banned in South Africa. Specifically, Kaizer Chiefs fans must be told to remove their colours at Pirates matches, and vice versa.
And finally, Buccaneer fans, shocked to find a referee brave enough to brandish a red card in Orlando, should be excluded from the next home game – a “behind closed doors" policy UEFA regularly uses in these situations. It hits the club hard in the pocket and reinforces the punishment for bad behaviour.
These lessons, particularly the training of stewards, must be learned.
Otherwise South African football could find itself back in the bad old days of crowd violence, intimidation and poor policing that were a major part of the game here and in Europe thirty years ago. I know. I was there. And nobody wants that.


  1. Excellent article with excellent points... Changes are needed and action is needed, otherwise, this will just carry on...

  2. I am in complete agreement with you.I mostly agree with your sentiments that the league and the clubs must discourage supporters of non participating teams from attending games wearing shirts from teams not involved in the game. It unnecessarily inflames the situation . People must be free to attend any game including those not involving their teams, however, they must do so with sensible care, respect and regard for the teams involved.

  3. We have also become an increasing angry nation that is easily sparked off, especially when in numbers. This is sport, not politics. Is that much at stake for the fans?

  4. Thanks for you comments guys, have added info from, Pirates fined R361,000 for four fan-related incidents since March last year. That's about as much as Benni McCarthy gets in six weeks.

  5. Great read and fair ,pirate failed on the pitch and it spreadd to the fans.they have great team ethic but not the best players and if you remove cog the wheels fall of and the fans have been spoilt by too much success in little time ,they think that they are annointed to win every cup in SA

  6. I agree fully Neal. The whole situation disintergrated quickly. Missiles were being thrown early in the 2nd half, yet the security marshalls AND match officials simply continued. Fans were provoking one another, but weren't attended to. Let's hope this will be a wake-up call to the powers-that-be in the PSL and it's member clubs, that security is just not up to scratch. Calling up Bra mang-mang from the street and handing him a yellow bib does not a security guard make. Saving cents doesn't always make sense. Lives could've been lost in the whole malaise. But I will continue hosting you at Orlando, despite the hooligans! No retreat, No surrender!