Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are the big two in South African football, making the Soweto derby one of the highlights of the season. Chiefs had home advantage on this occasion and so that meant a trip to the FNB Stadium.
I’d been there before. My mate Paul and I had paid a couple of visits during the World Cup, watching Holland play Denmark and then Argentina take on South Korea. That last game featured Diego Maradona stomping up and down the sideline as his country’s coach. It’s the only time I’ve seen him in real life. I’d have loved to have seen him as a player.
I’d had a check as to how many fans normally turn up for this game and it looks as if around eighty thousand is the norm. The papers were reporting that it might even sell out which would be pretty impressive in a ninety-four thousand capacity stadium.
Normally you would expect these two teams to be up at the top end of the league and whilst Kaizer Chiefs were in their usual position, Orlando Pirates were propping up the table. It was a false position though as lengthy cup runs had meant that despite this being the Pirates seventeenth game of the season, it was only their third in the league. By comparison, most of the other clubs had already played seven or eight PSL games. The gap would soon widen a bit more as the Pirates had a two-legged Champions League final to follow this game.
The journey to the stadium was a bit of an arse on, with all four or five lanes of the road down to crawling pace. It was a bit much for one fella who got out of his car and punched the bloke in the vehicle behind. I suppose there’s only so long you can amuse yourself with games of I-Spy. We later passed them all parked up on the hard shoulder putting their respective sides of the story to the police.
Despite the traffic we arrived at the FNB Stadium around an hour and a half early. The car parking was a bit chaotic and even though we had pre-booked a spot in a secure car park we were waved into a field that looked about as secure as leaving your front door open with a sign on it saying ‘Big Telly Inside’.
As we walked through the field towards the stadium, Jen and I were offered hats, flags and any manner of food cooked on open fires. One bloke was insistent that he should stamp our arms with a team badge for the bargain fee of five rand. In the end he gave me a Chiefs stamp on one arm and a Pirates one on the other. Great, ten rand to potentially provoke a kicking from both sets of supporters then.
Not surprisingly, the stadium was far from full as we took our seats with an hour to go before the teams came out. The ground staff were preparing for the game by scattering what looked like green sawdust over any bare patches on the pitch to make it look better for the cameras.
As kick-off approached we stood for a minute’s silence in respect of some fans who had recently died in a traffic incident. If the driving and punch up that we had seen earlier were any indication then there is probably a minute’s silence every game.
With the game underway, the ground continued to fill up. I’d estimate around forty thousand to start with, rising eventually to around seventy thousand. The attendance was, once again, reported as eighty thousand. Perhaps that’s just how it’s done here.
There was no segregation and the fans freely mixed with each other, taking the piss whenever circumstances on the pitch allowed. As per the previous week there were also plenty of people wearing other team’s shirts.
An early goal from the visitors was celebrated by a fair proportion of the stadium before being cancelled out later in the half by a Chiefs equaliser that might well have been offside.
There was a fair bit of showboating from the players. One fella in particular would have been Cattermoled in England for some of his tricks. In the second half we had a twenty two man punch up to liven things up, more than twenty two men actually, if you count the physio and coaching staff that got involved. There weren’t any more goals though and it finished up one each.
We nipped out a couple of minutes early only to find that we were blocked in by the random parking in the field. The bloke who had followed us for a hundred yards back to the car to collect his five rand for minding it commiserated but was of little practical help.
It’s a company car though and so I was able to squeeze it through the tiniest of gaps between a couple of vans and make a prompt getaway. Next time I’m here I’ll try and find the ‘proper’ secure parking.