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Fri Oct 31 13:25:30 SAST 2014

Afcon bunch needs a stern talking to

Archie Henderson | 19 November, 2012 00:03

The way some people went on after the Zambia football team's bus was stoned at Soccer City last week, you'd have thought that Chipolopolo had come under attack by a mob of panga-wielding maniacs.

It turned out that two misguided youths had been throwing stones. As a once-misguided laaitie who also threw stones - which kid can resist the urge? - I can hardly point a finger. But let's hope they got a stern talking-to by a fierce police sergeant and have promised to mend their ways.

It would have been interesting to hear what motivated the two youngsters - aged 12 and 13, we were told - to cast the first stone in what led, briefly, to an international incident.

Why, for instance, was the Zambian bus targeted? Would it have been because they were Bafana's opponents? If so, there could be some mitigating factors here.

This is not an attempt to excuse their behaviour, but those two kids are growing up in a world where opposition teams are often treated with, at best, insulting chants and, at worst, violence. Some clubs, such as Orlando Pirates, will even go to great lengths to exonerate themselves from the destructive tendencies of their fans. You'd think that someone of Irvin Khoza's standing in our football would accept responsibility. (Then again, perhaps not. He did not even have the gumption to take on a touch as soft as Gideon Sam.)

Now that the SA Football Association has grovelled to its Zambian counterpart for the incident, Kennedy Mweene has nursed a bruised ego and had a few stitches to his wounds and the international news agencies have come to realise that neither Marikana nor De Doorns have been transplanted to Soccer City, let's cut the kids some slack.

They deserve all the punishment that came their way but at least they showed some passion, which can't be said for many of our alleged soccer fans.

Other than extreme apathy, how do you explain only 16956 people from our most densely populated area turning up for an international match involving the said-to-be-beloved Bafana and the champions of Africa? According to some reports, fewer than 4000 out of that lot paid the entrance fee. We can't even get a rent-a-crowd to fill the jewel in our World Cup crown.

Not that you could call it a gem of a pitch after last Wednesday. At least we now know what's important to the people who run Soccer City. It's rock concerts and not football matches.

The photograph of the stadium's pitch, taken by Sydney Seshibedi that appeared in Wednesday's edition of The Times, was revealing: the surface resembled a dry river bed or a cattle kraal. Having home-ground advantage at next year's Nations Cup, for which Soccer City will stage the opening and closing games, could mean that Gordon Igesund will be taking Bafana to train on a dairy farm.

The organisers of the Nations Cup have inspired as much confidence as the people who care for the Soccer City pitch. Very little, that is.

With no Jerome Valcke or Sepp Blatter to chivvy along our lot, the Nations Cup is in danger of becoming a great non-event. There just seems to be no sense of occasion among Mvuso Mbebe's bunch. Someone needs to wake them up. Their poverty pleading, such as last week's presentation to parliament's sport portfolio committee, no longer stands up as an excuse. Perhaps they need a fierce police sergeant to give them a stern talking to.

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