OPINION: The derby a beautiful game indeed

Phiri Cawe

We call it the beautiful game, but sometimes soccer rivalry prompts behaviour that is incredibly ugly.

Last weekend the weather was near perfect and in anticipation of the Soweto Derby, which would see long-time rivals Olando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs take on each other at FNB Stadium, township streets, in particular were filled with fans wearing their club’s colours.

Some had painted their team’s emblems on their cheeks… drivers hooted at each other as a show of support. Saturday was a day of joy – but Soweto Derby day is often a day of tragedy as fans turn violent.

In the run-up to the derby, Khayelitsha Hospital’s Dr Anwar Kharwa had been having sleepless nights – not only because it was month-end when they usually see a spike in trauma incidents, but also because he was anticipating a high number of victims of soccer-related violence.

When I spoke to him about about the derby and about complaints I had heard about trauma patients sleeping on the floor, Dr Kharwa told me: “Phiri, I wish Chiefs/Pirates games can be abolished because people die with stab wounds and guns.”

Unfortunately his wish will never be granted and the doctor’s fear of violence related to the soccer match were unfortunately proved correct.

To many fans, the Pirates/Chiefs match is more than a game. It is a matter of life and death and can tear families apart.

I have been involved in sport and have specific soccer teams I support, here and abroad. But I simply cannot understand why people kill for the love of soccer.

Dr Kharwa and the Khayelitsha Hospital staff were kept busy this past weekend because of – and forgive me if I sound disrespectful – stupid fans who engage in soccer-related violence.

We don’t call soccer the beautiful game for people to be maimed, but to enjoy the beauty of it. We should accept the result, whichever way it goes. We have team supporters and their branches in our areas. I believe these are the guys that can help us educate fans about the aim of sport, discourage criminality and denounce violence on match days.

On the match itself, it was one of Chiefs’ most memorable runs ever. They managed to bottle up Pirates and while there were times when the Ghosts threatened to score, Daniel Akpeyi denied their attempts.

Congratulations to Chiefs who won 1-0, and big up to the Khayelitsha hospital staff for their sterling work this past weekend. I hope they are recovering well. You need that recovery for the next clash – Chiefs vs Mamelodi Sundowns next month.