S'Busiso Mseleku

Why not marry rugby, soccer?

2014-06-23 11:59
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
I sometimes get fascinated by our “new” 20-year-old South Africa.

Case in point Saturday’s Test between the Springboks and Wales that was played at the Mbombela Stadium.

It is now history that the Boks - our boys in green and gold - staged a dramatic finish to clinch the match 31-30. I guess congratulations are in order as well as for the Baby Boks who were pipped by England by one point in their IRB World Junior Championship final.

However, I digress as this is not what this column is about.

Back to what fascinated me about Saturday’s Boks match. I was fascinated by the fact that it was played at a stadium built for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

I know it was not the first time that the national rugby team played a match at that stadium. But who would have ever thought in their wildest dreams that rugby matches would be played at soccer stadiums?

There was a time when the trend was the other way round as soccer clubs lacked proper facilities and eventually, after the demise of apartheid, went in seek of solace to traditional rugby stadiums such as Ellis Park and Kings Park in Durban.

But after the 2010 Soccer World Cup, we have seen the Springboks play their matches at Mbombela and the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

Why, there was even that historic match, dreamed by our energetic Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, in which the Boks and Bafana Bafana played in a double header at the FNB Stadium in honour of our late icon, the first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela.

The match was played at the FNB Stadium, a stadium that was built as a dream of Abdul Bhamjee as the Mecca of South African soccer.

I doubt that founders of the SA Bantu Football Association that evolved to be African and eventually the present day South African Football Association (SAFA) or even the whites only Football Association of South Africa (FASA) would have dreamt that one day, The Blue Bulls would invade Soweto to play a match at the Orlando Stadium.

But this has happened and with great success at that.

It was with these thoughts, obviously prompted by Saturday’s match that I fathomed, why can’t there be more collaboration between soccer and rugby.

Partnerships between rugby franchises and Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs could yield some positive results and make a lot of business sense.

I thought such partnerships could lead to more joint utilisation of stadiums such as Mbombela, Nelson Mandela, Peter Mokaba in Polokwane and The Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg.

For starters, you could have the Pumas partnering with Mpumalanga Black Aces and make the Mbombela Stadium their home, with their offices, merchandise shops and everything being based at the stadium.

The Southern Kings can do the same at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and so forth and so forth.

With two permanent tenants, the stadiums built for the Soccer World Cup would get a new lease on life and gain some stability.

The clubs would then stretch their arms to neighbouring schools, adopt them and run joint development programmes from which they would pick up the best rugby and soccer players.

This would turn out to be a win-win situation and I am sure parents would feel more obliged to support their local teams whether it’s rugby or soccer which would result in more bums on seats at matches.

I might be accused of being a dreamer in the mould of Dr Martin Luther King but our country has achieved more miracles in the past.

And for me, marrying the country’s two most popular sports would be just what the doctor ordered.

Unity is strength goes one old adage.

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

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Read more on:    s’busiso mseleku  |  rugby  |  soccer
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