S'Busiso Mseleku

Football shouldn't be a matter of life and death

2016-10-19 11:42
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)

One of the most quoted - and I must add misquoted - sayings by Liverpool’s greatest manager, Bill Shankly, who was at the helm at Anfield for 15 years from December 1, 1959 to July 12, 1974 was that: “People often say football is a matter of life and death. They are wrong. It is much, much more than that.”

I thought about it this week when it emerged that some crazy Zamalek fan(s) had sent Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Teko Modise and striker Khama Billiat death threat messages.

These came after The Brazilians had annihilated their Egyptian counterparts 3-0 in the first leg of the CAF Champions League final.

The messages were to the effect that the players must choose between winning the cup and death. They also said Sundowns will die in Egypt.

While we know that there is usually some banter that goes on between supporters of different clubs before and after matches, I think these messages went overboard.

It is the kind of hooliganism that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) should deal with.

For decades, African clubs have employed dirty and intimidating tricks on visiting teams, and, while this has subsided a bit in recent times, it is high time that CAF stamps it out completely.

The two Egyptian giants, Zamalek and Al Ahly’s fans, are known for their tactics that include throwing smoke bombs, fire crackers and using lasers during matches. Hence most of their continental matches are played in the evening so that they can successfully employ this dirty ploy.

When South Africa was accepted back into the international football world in 1992, travelling through the continent was such a hazardous mission as clubs from all over engaged in dirty tricks that we as South Africans were not used to it.

I can still vividly remember the shabby treatment we received in countries such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast while traveling with Orlando Pirates in 1995, before they won the same CAF Champions League title, which was known as The African Cup of Champions Clubs at the time.

The tactics back then included being housed in shabby hotels that would at times have dirty water while some were even mouse-infested.

Bafana Bafana once travelled to Congo Brazzaville where they were exposed to some horrible treatment by soldiers. The match was played with a ring of gun-toting soldiers surrounding the pitch. If that’s not intimidation, then tell me what is.

South African defender Mark Fish was singled out for some rough treatment on the field where he was not only kicked to pieces, but was "nudged" with elbows and struck with fists in such a way that by the time he was pulled out, he looked as if he had gone a full 12 rounds with former World Heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson!

Mark Fish (Tertius Pickard - Gallo Images)

The dirty tactics carried over onto the field of play where home sides were often awarded dubious penalties that would be anything from a single one, or up to three in some cases, per match.

As said above, things have improved.

Clubs and visiting national teams are now given much better treatment than before, although there are still some isolated incidents.

It is with this in mind that one urges CAF to act from their lofty offices in Cairo to weed out such practices before they plunge Africa back to being known as the “Dark Continent”.

See messages below as posted by Teko Modise on his Instagram page.

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 over 30 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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