Unruly hooligans throw objects at Johan Neeskens after Swallows defeat
Mamelodi Sundowns were plunged further into crises on Sunday when fans showed their displeasure at the 2-0 loss to Moroka Swallows by storming the pitch and threatening coach Johan Neeskens.
The Dutch mentor was reportedly hit with a bottle thrown at him, but cut a determined figure in the post-match press conference, vowing to fight on.
The scenes generated by the hooligans were a stain on the image of South African football, but have been all too familiar in the past with a club that has battled with an unsavoury element among their support base.
Coaches in the recent past who have been forced to quit after having threatened by Brazilians fans include Henri Michel, Antonio Habas and Hristo Stoichkov. For them, the fear-factor became too much.
It calls into question what is driving the displeasure, which should really be aimed at the players rather than Neeskens.
His side created over 30 scoring opportunities against Swallows, but could not find the back of the net. That does not sound like bad tactics, but rather under-performance from the club’s highly-paid stars.
The players too seem to back the coach, believing in his philosophy, but just unable to provide the execution come game-time.
Is there an element within the club management that wants Neeskens gone and is stirring up unrest among supporters to try and force him out? There is no proof of this, but it must be a suspicion.
What was clear was that Sunday’s incident was one that could easily have spiraled out of control and possibly even led to much more serious criminal action.
Sundowns have been fined as a club for this before by the PSL, but perhaps, for the safety of Neeskens and future coaches, more drastic action needs to be taken.
A points deduction and two or three home games being played behind closed doors would be a suitable punishment that would send the message that this hooliganism will not be tolerated.
If it is allowed to just be forgotten, who knows what more serious action will be taken by fans next time?
South African football can ill-afford these scenes, they are bad for sponsors and the image of the league, which is trying to attract a better calibre of player from Europe.
Neeskens has reportedly been given an ultimatum to defeat Platinum Stars on Saturday or face the sack. It will be very difficult for him to come back from this position and turn this into a successful season for Sundowns, but starting with just a single victory could lift the gloom and give the players the confidence they so desperately lack.