Sunday, December 10, 2023

Manchester United take South Africa by storm

When a local team locks horns with an international one, the notion is that the local supporters have to rally behind their home team in their numbers and give them all the necessary and moral support.

That, however, does not look to be the case with South African soccer fans.
Fans in the cities of Cape Town and Durban have been rallying behind English and European champions, Manchester United, in unbelievable numbers.

Most of those supporters were mainly from the white, coloured and Indian communities and, to a certain extent, blacks.

Considering that Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are the most popular teams in the country, one would have been forgiven to think that most support would go to them.

Almost all angles of both the Newlands and ABSA Stadiums in Cape Town and Durban were painted red with Manchester United memorabilia. That consisted of the team jerseys, flags, vuvuzelas and flags.

With the world watching, the question remains whether the level of support given to a foreign team would also be given to another one during the World Cup that will be held in South Africa in less than two years.

So far, teams that already command popular support in South Africa are Brazil and England and it looks likely for South Africans to do the same.
This is a worrying factor according to one of South African soccer journalists, Vuyani Joni.

Joni told The Sunday Standard that he could understand the situation in Cape Town but not the one in Durban, which he labeled an embarrassment.
“Traditionally, the people of Cape Town do not support soccer. There are two Premier League clubs in the area and the people there hardly fill the stadium. But when there is a cricket or rugby match, they come in their numbers.

“Somehow, I also have to blame the Cape Town teams because they hardly mobilise supporters. They never make road shows to bring more people to the game and it is about time they started, especially in the locations because that is where many people stay. I think those teams are just sitting on a gold mine,” he said.

Joni, who writes for one of South Africa’s leading football newspapers, Soccer Laduma, also blamed Pirates for the actions in Durban.

He said the team distributed their new red shirts just before the match, adding that their colours clashed with that of Manchester United.

“In other stands, where there were Pirates supporters, we thought they were supporting the visiting Manchester United because they were wearing red. Pirates should have at least waited until before the end of the tournament,” he said.

Joni also said what South African supporters displayed is going to be repeated in 2010 during the World Cup. He said many people are going to support visiting teams like Spain, Holland, Germany and Brazil, adding that during the World Cup, the very same people would be the ones filling the stadiums in their numbers.
“Most of the people who were rallying behind Manchester United are whites, coloured and Indians, and those are the very same people who will mainly afford the tickets while the hardcore ones will be left behind.

“This is a worrying factor for us South Africans and we should do something before it is late,” he said.
On the other hand, veteran South African journalist, Billy Cooper, disagrees that most South Africans were rallying behind Manchester United. He said some of the people who were wearing the red shirts were rallying behind the local teams.

“I do disagree to some extent because in Cape Town when Manchester United’s sensational striker, Wayne Rooney, was substituted more than half of the stadium was booing him. That obviously said something on its own. I do think all will be fine and it is just that Manchester United is a big brand,” he said.


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