Its been a pretty traumatic few days in Polokwane,(formerly Pietersberg) one of the 9 FIFA World Cup 2010 cities.home of Platinum Stars and Peter Mokaba Stadium, and site of the recent ANC (African National Congress) party elections with 3,000 delegates.
Vice President Jacob Zuma from KwaZulu Natal was challenging President Thabo Mbeki for party leadership and won decisively. Although Mbeki will rule the country until late 2009, and cannot run for a third term, his 'unseating' by his deputy, who was called Comrade by the the election announcer, and is supported by the Communist Party, leaves many South Africans, and foreigners uneasy. For all the critiscism of Mbeki after the rule of Mandela, he has helped steer the country fairly well economically. Zuma is a 'popularist' who often puts on native dress and after his election led his supporters in his hallmark anthem 'Bring me my Machine Gun. He has had both a rape charge and a corruption trial collapse but now the infamous Scorpions part of the NPA (National Prosecution Authority), are ready to bring more fraud and corruption charges against him concerning an arms deal that has already given his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, a 15 year sentence for kick backs.
A couple of weeks ago I was at the PSL Telkom Final Kaizer Chiefs vs Maladomi Sundowns at Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld Stadium, where many 2010 matches are to be played. It's in an exclusive area of the capital and as we parked our car in a nearby street we walked past a number of embassies including Slovakia and Algeria. They all had large dogs with big teeth behind the railings, razorsharp wire and electric fences. Two hours before the 8.00pm kick-off the streets were full of dancing, chanting, singing supporters with traders doing a good business in souvenir hats, flags and vuvuzelas, the long plastic horns. The best looking hats are the converted mining helmets in the yellow and black colours of the Chiefs, with wild designs. We bought a long Boerewors(hot dog) on a bun from some white traders who had their food, drink and cash box behind the iron railings of their back yard opposite the stadium, which is surrounded by beautiful jacaranda trees. This is actual a problem after an evening match,-lots of trees and shadows for bad guys to hide under waiting for unsuspecting fans.
Inside there were over 50,000, a sell-out and an amazing 250 or so private boxes on 3 sides, so favoured by the fans of The Blue Bulls the local rugby team. Some are rented by the season by big corporations but I was told that you can rent some of them by the match. At rugby matches the make up of fans is maybe 75% white, but at this soccer match I counted less than a dozen whites, including myself and my friend Brandon, a civil engineer, whose company is rebuilding Soccer City in Johannesburg where the 2010 Final will be held. He is a big soccer fan but rarely dares to go to more than one professional match a year. Both team coaches were white, South African Gordon Igesund of The Sundowns and the other Turkish-German, Muhsin Ertugral of The Chiefs, and maybe 3 of the many TV cameramen.
There was an incessent noise throughout the match and Kaizer Chiefs fans outnumbered Sundowns fans at least 3-1, despite this being the Sundowns 'home' stadium. Sundowns have now won only 3 out of 14 league matches and owner Patric Molsepe, a mining billionaire won't stand for that for much longer. About to enter the cursery 'pat down' line of security guards I had a coke thrown on my clothes and my camera stolen in one quick movement. Cameras can be replaced, but not the wonderful animal photos that I had taken in previous days in the bush. Crime and public transport are by far the 2 biggest problems for 2010. I would not be suprised to see at least a dozen and maybe as many as a hundred foreign fans murdered for their possessions around World Cup time.
In contrast to a league match a week earlier at the same stadium between Sundowns, nicknamed The Brazilians' after their uniform and flair, and the Jomo Somo Cosmos where maybe 1,000 fans showed up, there was hardly a spare seat. Tickets were about $4.00 US but not numbered. After a recent rainstorm a few days earlier, 80% of the bucket style plastic seats had an inch or two of water, and the designers of the seats in this uncovered side with maybe 20,000 fans in two 'tiers' had not considered having a small hole in the seats to drain water. They were also very flimsy and could easily be ripped off their foundations and used as weapons. NO police are allowed inside the stadiums and there was a tall wire fence surrounding the pitch and I looked thoroughly for quick exits onto the field with security people on duty for quick access in case of a disaster, to no avail. They are supposed to put a large roof over this huge East Stand for the World Cup, replace all the seats and install electronic scanning ticket turnstiles.
The PSL www.psl.co.za is the best run in all of Africa, and much is due to the retiring Chief Executive Trevor Phillips who had previously had a similar role in the English Premier League. He has been succeeded by a Norwegian, Kjetil Siem who was General Manager of Valarenga in the Norwegian League-Norsk Toppfotball. Big sponsorships and TV rights deals have made for good buisness, but apart from Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Bloomfontain Celtic, crowds are derisory. Top team Cape Town Ajax and other clubs number attendances in the hundreds rather than the thousands.
The final itself was pretty disappointing and finished 0-0 after extra time and was decided by penalties in favour of the Chiefs, whose goalie saved 3 shots. Former NASL Al Star Kaizer Motuang is founder and President of Africa's most supported club. One son is General Manager, his daughter is in charge of public relations and another son Kaizer Jr., came on as a substitute in the second half. He should probably be playing in the Bundesliga. The first time he was tackled he rolled over 7 times!!The prize to the winning team was about $500,000 US and Patrice Molsepe had promised all of it to the players if they won the final, but it was not to be.