Johannesburg - Clyde Slyde Tlou must have had his tongue firmly stuck somewhere in the side of his mouth when he posted the following comment on Facebook: You never realise how much people care about you until the Soweto derby is close ... some call you three times a day just checking you up in this stormy weather".
His comment reminded me of a friend who used to say that some of the most serious, true and sometimes hurtful comments are made in jest.
Tlou was on the money with this one.
To me, his point proved once more just how important this match still is since the first one played at Orlando Stadium on January 24 1970.
It also never ceases to amuse me how much some people dis the derby (especially after it ends in a dour goalless draw) and vow never to attend it again, only to be the first to ask for tickets when the next rendition comes around.
If all the negative comments made about the Soweto derby were to be believed, there would be rows and rows of empty seats whenever this fixture is played.
However, the contrary is true, as tickets to the Soweto derby are usually sold out a week before the match and the stadium is packed.
This happens regardless of the form of the two protagonists, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
The point is that, no matter how much people criticise the Soweto derby or the two clubs’ standards of play, it still remains the biggest fixture in South Africa.
Maybe the question we need to address is: How has the Soweto derby remained relevant for all these years?
For starters, the often-told history of how Chiefs was founded as a Kaizer Motaung-led player breakaway from the Buccaneers, sowing real seeds for a bitter rivalry.
From the 1970s and maybe up to the 1990s, the two clubs only went for the best players.
There are many stories of how officials from the two clubs became nocturnal animals in a bid to beat each other to the signature of a promising youngster.
Some were snatched even after being lured by the other club.
In some instances, opposition officials would do this after establishing that the parents – or more specifically, the father – of that certain player was a staunch supporter of their team.
A father would be coerced into making his son change his mind for the benefit of the club he supported.
In the early 1990s Irvin Khoza returned to soccer to revive an ailing Sea Robbers and introduced some innovative ideas.
Realising the pulling power of the two brands, he introduced a system where they jointly approached sponsors.
This novel idea gave birth to the Vodacom Challenge that pitted the two Soweto giants (and I’m using “giants” guardedly here) against clubs from overseas and from the continent.
The tournament turned out to be a huge success and later on gave birth to the Carling Black Label Cup, which is contested between the two sides annually.
For the first time in history, the Iron Duke’s innovation saw supporters of the two sides sitting together during matches.
This had been unheard of in the 1970s and 1980s.
Many criticised this and said it watered down the rivalry, given that there had even been physical fights between the sets of fans previously.
But despite such complaints the derby remains as vibrant as ever.
I do feel that the event needs another innovation that will take it to the next level.
But this does not rule out FNB Stadium being packed to the rafters come Saturday.
And if you suddenly see old friends come out of the woodwork, just attribute it to Soweto derby fever.
Any friends out there with a ticket for me?
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