JOHANNESBURG – For this entire week, soccer authorities in Mzansi have been asking supporters affiliated to different clubs to put their rivalry aside and support Orlando Pirates in the club’s quest to win the CAF Champions League final against Al Ahly of Egypt.
Thing is, The Ghosts’ Champions League matches have had poor attendances and authorities fear this might scuttle the club’s chances of winning Africa’s biggest club tournament if fans again stay away from this crucial game.
Having played to an ill-tempered 1-1 draw against bitter rivals Kaizer Chiefs last Saturday, there are fears that Amakhosi supporters might throw their support on the Egyptian side tonight, something that might heavily compromise Pirates’ chances.
They have done so in the past, and might do so again this Saturday evening.
Therefore, the main call from soccer authorities has been that all supporters should put aside the club rivalry aside and rally behind the Bucs cause.
Good call but a difficult one. Chiefs’ supporters have always made their intentions clear that they would rather see an outside team win, regardless of national pride, than witness their rivals boast and have the last laugh.
The Chiefs/Bucs rivalry is one of the bitterest rivalries in the world of club soccer and on the day of each derby, business in Mzansi completely come to a standstill.
Families are torn apart, friendship and love affairs are temporarily shelved aside.
That is how bitter the competition between the two sides is.
In the past, several deaths as a result of stabbings and shooting used to be a regular feature after the Pirates/Amakhosi derbies but years of supporter education has somehow eradicated this ancient trend.
However, there is still no love lost between the two sides’ supporters and expect Al Ahly to have a few Mzansi ‘fans’ this evening at Orlando Stadium.
This however, seem to be a global drift including in Zimbabwe.
I remember in the 80’s and 90s in matches involving Dynamos and Caps United.
Supporters from either side would openly or in case of Caps supporters (who feared Dynamos supporters to beat them up), back the opposing team to get one past their city rivals.
There is no chance in the world, then that you would see a Caps follower jumping up and down for Dynamos’ goal even when national pride was at stake.
That might have changed since I have been away for too long and consequently lost interest of Zimbabwean club soccer.
In one match at Rufaro Stadium, Power Dynamos of Zambia playing in continental competition and then boasting the likes of Peter Kaumba had more supporters than Caps United and the following week, Zamalek of Egypt had a sizeable crowd behind them when they took on Dynamos.
Sad as it might look, this is a true story.
I remember my uncle Martin Makururu in the 1980s saying he was prepared to support a team comprising of apartheid regime ministers than Dynamos because then they used to regularly beat his favourite Caps United.
This is not only an African phenomenon. Barcelona supporters would openly back a visiting team in matches involving Real Madrid and vice-versa.
In England, most clubs supporters who don’t support Manchester United would back any team that plays against the dominant Old Trafford side in any European competition.
It is the harsh reality. No amount of national pride would compel anyone to back a club he or she has never supported. It is a natural instinct. That hatred is in-born.
While most sub-Saharan football supporters would love to see Pirates win this competition, Chiefs supporters don’t share that feeling. Get it from me!