Monday, November 20, 2006

Bidvest Wits FC – Black Leopards (11-11-2006)

Finding out about the exact date and time of a football game in South Africa is similar to trying to go to the movies in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s: dates and times seem to change daily. We had planned to see Wits FC on Sunday and Kaiser Chiefs on Saturday. On Friday we found out that Wits plays on Saturday (too) and seemed to be forced to make a choice: seeing Wits, the team of The University of the Witwatersrand (where my friend P.K. works), or the Kaiser Chiefs, the main team of South Africa (in)famous for its fanatic fans. We chose the Chiefs, after having made sure that it iss “reasonably safe” to go to their games (as long as it is not the major derby against Orlando Pirates). However, nothing is simple in South Africa, and while driving through Joburg on Friday, we passed advertisements for newspapers and one said “Empty Chiefs Game”. After checking the newspaper in question, we found out that the Kaiser Chiefs had to play their game that day without spectators, because of misbehavior of their fans a couple of weeks before (ripping out the seat and throwing them on the pitch; they don’t take defeats well ;-).

So, on Saturday 15.00 P.K., a friend of his, and the Grondhopper entered the campus of The University of the Witwatersrand to see the university team take on the beautifully named Black Leopards (or Lidoda Duhva in their local language) from Limpopo in the North of the country. While parking at the campus we were surprised by the number of fans and their colorfulness. We bought tickets for the Open Stand at Gate C for 20 Rand (ca. 2 euro) and, as it was 34 degrees, sat down behind the goal and under a tree.

Home Fans

At the beginning of the game some 700 spectators were in the small Bidvest stadium, of which some 50 whites, and 200 away supporters (who probably studied or worked in Johannesburg). In addition, there were more than 100 supporters of other teams, most notably the Kaiser Chiefs (banned from their own stadium), who mainly supported the Black Leopards (as Wits is the better team).

Away Fans

Despite the small size of the audience, the atmosphere was really nice. The away supporters were dancing and singing in their traditional way, while the home crowd at the main stand was full with people with plastic trumpets who were blowing to the sound of the music that was played. Around us fans from practically all teams in South Africa sat down, mainly opposing Wits.

The game started ferociously, similar to the FC Twente game I saw two weeks earlier. Within 20 minutes it was 3-0 for Wits. Oddly enough, it had been Lidoda Duhva that had had most of the play so far. Wits had shot three times at goal and had scored three times: courtesy of the dreadful Leopards ‘defense’. In the meantime, the Brazilian striker Julio, who had scored the 1-0, had been launched 2 meters into the air in a collision with Leopards goalie Mbaha, and had been substituted, while one of the Leopards defenders was playing with a bandage around his skull after a clash and a head wound. Still, the game was entertaining and not very dirty. As had happened in Enschede, two weeks earlier, the game slowly died down after the quick 3-0. Wits were clearly the better team, particularly their disciplined and skilled defense impressed, but were no longer motivated to go for it. The Leopards recovered from the early slaughter and slowly but steadily got back into the game, without threatening the good Wits goalie Josephs too much. 3-0 at half time.

After a relaxing 15 minutes of pause, with a not particularly skilled but very enthusiastic cheerleader team exciting the (90% male) audience, the game restarted where it had largely left off: with the Leopards dominating the game, and Wits easily keeping them at bay. And while the 3-1 seemed closer, it was Wits that scored the 4-0 in the last minute of the game.

The 'final' score

All in all, a very enjoyable game, with a friendly and festive atmosphere and very decent football. I was particularly struck by the discipline of the Wits defense and by the good choices that most players on the pitch made when having the ball. Moreover, Wits games are probably the safest in the country, not a futile in a country like South Africa.

No comments: