Fan violence simply can’t be tolerated

Crowd violence during the Nedbank Cup Semi Final match between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars at Moses Mabhida Stadium on April 21, 2018 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images)

Crowd violence during the Nedbank Cup Semi Final match between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars at Moses Mabhida Stadium on April 21, 2018 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images)

It was a sickening day for South African football on Saturday, as supporters raged in the aftermath of Kaizer Chiefs’ Nedbank Cup exit at the hands of Free State Stars at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Seats were set fire to in the stands and a pitch invasion followed the final whistle, with one security guard captured on video getting beaten unconscious by a group of hooligans, while other louts damaged camera equipment in amid scenes of total mayhem.

There was a debate that raged on social media for some time after over the gender of the beaten security guard, initially believed to be woman, but later confirmed to be a man, Sabela Maziba.

Yet the gender of the victim is an irrelevance that should be quickly passed over. Violence against women in South Africa is a horrendous problem, even if this specific incident did not involve a woman. And vicious assault is vicious assault, whoever the victim. These thugs must be brought to book and feel the full weight of the law.

A total of 18 people, according to a statement from Moses Mabhida Stadium were injured in the violence on Saturday, the latest in a line of incidents at Premier Soccer League matches, with no real sign it is getting any better. That is 18 injuries too many.

This week, Orlando Pirates and Bidvest Wits will play a match behind closed doors, after Buccaneers fans lost the plot and invaded the pitch at Loftus Versveld on February 11, 2017, with their team losing an Absa Premiership match 6-0 to Mamelodi Sundowns. It took an inordinate length of time for the Premier Soccer League to hand down a punishment to Pirates (over 14 months), hence the fact that the closed-door game is only being played this week.

PSL chairman Irvin Khoza gave a call-to-action yesterday, in the wake of Saturday’s violence, but given his organisations lethargy in reacting to the Pirates-Sundowns issue, it is hard to know at exactly what pace the PSL will actually go at in resolving the latest shame upon the sport in this country.

On a more positive note, the PSL did act more quickly to punish Kaizer Chiefs when their fans threw missiles at a recent home game against Chippa United. The PSL implemented a R250 000 fine, R200 000 of which was suspended, but that must surely kick in after Saturday’s disgrace.

Chiefs, meanwhile, also acted bizarrely and rather carelessly, to my mind, in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s incident. The press conference they called to announce Steve Komphela’s immediate resignation was clumsy and dangerous.

They may not have meant it, but it gave the impression that the fan violence had caused Komphela’s departure from the club to be moved forward. This sends a message to fans that if they want the coach out, all they have to do is riot. It also took Chiefs too long to issue an official statement condemning their fans’ behaviour.

Komphela, meanwhile, deserves to go at Chiefs after three seasons without a meaningful trophy. This kind and always respectful man, however, did not deserve to go this way, in a flurry of violence.

It is simply unacceptable to behave the way these fans did in any circumstances. The problem in South Africa in general, however, is that violence often seems the go to reaction to any issue.

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