Decisive action needed after soccer violence

Cape Town – Condemnations of a pious nature have rung out loud and clear from most of the relevant authorities following the damaging and ugly rioting of Kaizer Chiefs supporters at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday night after the one-time glamour team had slumped to a 2-0 defeat against Free State Stars in the Nedbank Cup semi-final.

And well they might. The behaviour of the misguided fans was no less than barbaric, senseless and unprovoked insofar as logic and reason was concerned.

But the words, no matter how tinged with genuine disgust that might be ringing out now over the raging rumpus, have had a habit in the past of becoming diluted like a torrential river reduced to a parched stream when it comes to dealing out appropriate punishment.

Take for example the similar, if marginally less gruesome violence that desecrated South African soccer when Soweto's other so-called giants, Orlando Pirates, slumped to an ignominious 6-0 defeat against Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

It took the PSL's snail-paced Disciplinary Committee – with due apologies to the snail community for the metaphor – a painful 14 months before sentencing the Buccaneers last week to playing Wednesday nights home Premier League game against Bidvest Wits at Orlando Stadium behind closed doors – with a second such penalty suspended and only implemented if a similar offence takes place.

Many see the DC's assessment as no more than a slap on the wrist – even if Pirates are set to surrender a fairly substantial amount of gate takings as a result of the judgement, injudicious or otherwise – while honest and abiding potential spectators will suffer along with the more unsavoury breed.

But whether one views the judgement as adequate or not, there is no justifiable reason for its lengthy delay.

So what was the cause? An official involved in the proceedings claims it was due mainly to Pirates using every means possible at their disposal, both legitimate and far-fetched, to improve their case, minimise the ugliness of the incident and lessen the penalty imposed on them as the passing of time blunted the seriousness of what had taken place.

If this is indeed so it is disquieting to note that Pirates' strongman boss, Irvin Khoza, appropriately nicknamed "The Iron Duke", is also an omnipotent chairperson of the PSL and he could have guided
the Buccaneers in a different direction in dealing with the ugly nature of crowd misbehaviour.

At least, Khoza has come out in the strongest terms in an unequivocal response to the Chiefs' "mayhem at Mabhida" – as have Chiefs themselves, SAFA and the Department of Sport and Recreation.

But it is worth repeating that words alone are grossly inadequate if not backed up by meaningful action.

And the indisputable fact in this instance is that Chiefs as a club must bear the full brunt of their misguided supporters' actions, particularly as that they are presently facing the implementation of a R200 000 suspended fine after they were only designated a direct R50 000 payment for crowd disturbances at the 3-0 Premier League defeat against Chippa United only days ago.

Also, no doubt, as a valid consideration will be the pronouncement of the PSL's own DC Prosecutor, Nande Becker, that, if nothing else, the decision to make Pirates play Wits behind locked doors has set in stone a procedure of how clubs should be punished in the wake of crowd misbehaviour.

And, while the crass crowd behaviour has become a major issue surrounding the weekend's controversial Nedbank semi-finals, there are several other factors that are significantly linked to what emerged a pattern of shock events.

Recall, for example, that when the semi-final draw was enacted, a gallant, under-rated Maritzburg United were decreed a home game at the Harry Gwala Stadium, from where they duly made imperious favourites Mamelodi Sundowns eat humble pie as their bid for a League and Cup double unceremoniously bit the dust.

Chiefs too came out of the Cup draw with home-ground advantage for the game against Free State Stars, but instead of following what should have been a universal soccer tradition – particularly on such a vital occasion to halt what had become a disturbing decline for a club of their stature – made what proved the fateful and calamitous decision to play in Durban instead of their designated home base at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.

As for what in the circumstances culminated in the almost inevitable early termination of targeted Steve Komphela's three-year, trophy-less stay at the Amakhosi a matter of weeks before it was due to run its course, it matters little whether it was a case of what came first the chicken or
the egg – and whether the targeted coach resigned first or was summarily fired as some are claiming.

More certain is the fact that the Komphela, a former Chiefs and Bafana Bafana captain during his distinguished playing career and a man of the highest integrity and principles and calculating soccer insight, had scant little to do with the miserable performance that resulted in the demise against the gritty, opportunist Stars.

Chiefs conceded two goals with the help of palpable defensive errors, produced a minimum of 10 gilt-edged scoring chances in the match and came up against an inspired goalkeeper in Thela Ngobeni, who played the game of his life, but should still have had five point-blank range opportunities leaving him with no chance of saving.

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