COMMENT: The good, the bad and the ugly of the 2017 Carling Cup

Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates fans
Like the majority of football fanatics in the country, I was excited to be part of this year’s Carling Black Label Champion Cup, writes Ernest Makhaya

The entertainment provided by Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates on the pitch, as well as by the organizers around the stands, is was what the fans had been longing for.

With this encounter being more than just a pre-season friendly between the two Soweto giants, nothing less was expected from both sets of players. 

Gustavo Paez swept almost everyone off their feet with his dangerous runs, even my colleagues in the media booth were raving about his abilities as a player.

The South American striker was definitely not the only player who showed hunger on the day – there were a few more, but it is his contribution that led to Bernard Parker’s goal that proved to be the difference at the end of 90 minutes.

Kaizer Chiefs, Gustavo Paez & Orlando Pirates, Patrick Phungwayo

Everyone was excited, myself included, until towards the end of the game when reports of a possible stampede emerged.

Then I quickly left the media booth, and bumped into one of the organizers on my way out, but I was told everything was under control, without actually elaborating about the situation.

I was told to go back and that the media will be briefed. No one was willing to say anything about what everyone had seen on social media about the two supporters who lost their lives.

I went back to my seat and spoke with the rest of the media about the sad events. I was surprised that they knew nothing about the stampede. A few saw posts on social media too. Again, there was no official word from the organizers at the time. We couldn't react to rumours.

We had to eventually rely on a media statement that was only released after the game in a somber press conference room.

Carling Black Label Cup 2017

Even then, nothing much was said, except that the investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the stampede.

To the majority of us inside the stadium, soon after hearing the news, we thought the stampede occurred towards the end of the game, but it was actually in the first half.

From what I saw soon after arriving at the venue just after midday, there were signs that this tragic incident could happen, especially with fans in and around the stadium asking for extra tickets to gain access. They were so close to the fence and the gates.

Stadium Management SA CEO Jacques Grobbelaar admitted after the match that there was a discussion about possibly delaying the game to allow the fans enough time to come inside the venue, but it wasn’t implemented.

“There was no reason to believe there were any risks at the time of kickoff. Hence the game went ahead. A delay for kickoff was discussed, but not implemented because there was no risk and no need for it,” said Grobbelaar to the media.

Emergency service marshals and vehicles leave from the FNB stadium Kaizer Chiefs Orlando Pirates 07292017

On my way out after a short press conference which was cut by the Amakhosi management because 'they had to leave', I spoke to a few security guards who were there when the incident occurred, and at least three revealed that a group of fans grew frustrated as it was clear that they were not going to see the game, and forced their way in by pushing.

It’s easy to put the blame solely on the fans in situations like this one, but other factors should be considered to avoid losing lives at venues where there should be pure entertainment.

One of the lessons from this painful experience is that fans should only buy tickets for the Soweto Derby in advance. Then the organizers and all the stakeholders involved should ensure that football stadiums are the safest places to be for everyone.