Dissecting the troublesome factors keeping Bafana Bafana fans away from the stands

Dissecting the troublesome factors keeping Bafana Bafana fans away from the stands
From left: Kurt-Lee Arendse of the Springboks scores a try in The Rugby Championship match against Argentina at Kings Park in Durban on 24 September 2022. (Photo: Anton Geyser / Gallo Images) | South Africa and Sierra Leone players during the international friendly at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on 24 September 2022. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images) | A fan during the friendly between South Africa and Sierra Leone at FNB Stadium on 24 September 2022. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images)

Bafana Bafana played two international friendlies over the last week. The number of people who came to support the team could probably fit into a single bus. Just why are South Africans so cold towards Hugo Broos and his men?

As a cold front currently sweeps through South Africa, one particular group of South Africans felt the chill a bit more than many. That being Bafana Bafana.

South Africa’s senior men’s soccer side beat the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 on a nippy Tuesday evening at Soweto’s Orlando Stadium. The win stretched the team’s unbeaten run to nine games. Man of the moment, Lyle Foster netted the winner.

South Africa’s run has seen them beat nations such as Sierra Leone, Botswana, Liberia and even the darlings of African soccer at the moment — Morocco. The team has recorded six wins and three stalemates during this time.

Nevertheless, they have struggled to fill up stadiums. Their 2-1 over the Moroccans only drew about 40,000 spectators to the 90,000-capacity FNB Stadium in June. Even then, the feeling was that the main drawcard was seeing the 2022 World Cup semifinalists in the flesh.   

But that attendance was tenfold better than the support that turned out to watch the team in Soweto over the last two matches against neighbouring Namibia and the Congolese.

Against the Namibians on Saturday — as the two teams played to a 0-0 draw — the stands were virtually empty.

Though, with the disjointed nature of the match, as Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos shuffled his deck every few minutes to hand as many players minutes on the pitch to impress him, even those watching from home likely had no regrets of not making the trip to Soweto.  

The second match versus Congo, played at the same venue on Tuesday, saw the attendance rise slightly. The irony came from the fact that it was the visiting side with more fans that converged in Soweto.      

Bafana Bafana fans

Bafana Bafana fans during the international friendly match between South Africa and DR Congo at Orlando Stadium on 12 September, 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

“It is a little bit disappointing. You could see in the stadium there were more DRC supporters than for us. I hope in the future we will have more support,” Belgian Broos said following his team’s hard-fought 1-0 win.

“You saw what having the backing of your supporters can do. DR Congo grew in the game because they were supported by their fans. We had some difficult moments. And in that situation, you need your supporters to back you,” the 71-year-old lamented.  

“I hope in future we can have better crowds than these games against Namibia and DR Congo.”

Tell me why

There are myriad factors behind this poor attendance. At the top of this is the fact that Bafana Bafana is but a mere shadow of the team it was about 25 years ago. The team’s reputation has been tarnished in the eyes of many who have watched it wither right before their eyes.

Long gone is the aura the team carried with the likes of Benni McCarthy and Lucas Radebe manning the oars. The shoe-shine days of dribbling wizards such as Doctor Khumalo, John “Shoes” Moshoeu and Steven Pienaar are a thing of the past.

Not to mention that the team hardly qualifies for major tournaments such as the Fifa World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). They did manage to book a ticket to the latest edition of the latter showpiece, taking place in Ivory Coast in 2024. There the team can further sell itself to its indifferent supporters.   

Even with the side’s displays evidently better on paper since Broos took over in May 2021, many Bafana Bafana followers still hold on to those nostalgic memories of yesteryear. Though, under Broos, the team is being built for efficiency over being as entertaining as past iterations.

Then there is of course the matter of Broos’s candid and concise approach when he addresses the issues that plague South African soccer, from his perspective.

The common theme is that the country is not at the level it used to be with producing quality players and that the domestic league is simply not good enough to compete with the powerhouses of the continent, never mind globally.   

For this, the coach has been branded as a disrespectful old man, who does not understand the country’s soccer ecosystem.

However, empty stadiums at club level — unless it is Kaizer Chiefs versus Orlando Pirates, or Mamelodi Sundowns tackling either of the two Soweto sides — indicate that Broos is not wrong.

What is happening with Bafana Bafana is just a reflection of what is happening below them. Across the board.

Outside of Bafana Bafana themselves, the dwindling numbers at stadiums can be attributed to the fact that South Africa as a country is increasingly in disarray.

Economically, it does not make sense for someone to spend their money on a ticket, transport and refreshments to watch the team labour to a 1-0 win over a nation such as Sierra Leone — to spend money that can contribute to a week’s supply of an increasingly expensive loaf of bread. (General tickets for a game cost between R50 and R100)

Maybe when there comes a time when the team is confident enough to incorporate the “South Africa way” of playing soccer, with the dogged pursuit of results, people might be willing to forgo that loaf of bread.

For now, it simply isn’t worthwhile. However, the players must keep their heads down and continue to do what they are paid to do. The results will speak for them. Hopefully, to the point where they can no longer be ignored. DM 


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Bafana is useless! Skills development at grassroots and investments are non-existent. Then you have the corruption at SAFA. Why is Danny Jordaan still around? Same ol’, same ol’ at SAFA. No innovation, no investing in academies, niks!

  • Libby De Villiers says:

    Lack of discipline from top to bottom and front to back.
    People don’t pay to be disappointed. We will support them if they deserve our support. They get paid to do something they are supposed to be good at.
    Nobody backs a loser. Sorry.

  • Rob Scott says:

    People tend to support winners – they are happy if their team loses on the odd occasion against a better team but people like winners. Bafana are sadly losers and have been for a decade plus – they dont just lose the odd game against a better team. They are always losers. SAFA is part of the problem so until SAFA are changed dont expect fans to come.

  • William Kelly says:

    In a word. SAFA. Cricket would have gone the same way but they didn’t steal All the money and we still have a slim core of professionalism, although for how long I wonder, and the IPL keeping things exciting. Rugby on the other hand, is knocking the lights out and leading the way. Ermm. Management. Management. Management.

  • chris egerton says:

    If SAFA spent their money developing the game at junior level like the “white” sports of rugby and cricket, the quality of our senior team would be better. My son has just finished his season playing in KZN and what we have witnesses explains to a T why Bafana Bafana will remain mediocre no matter who the coach is. Cheating and corruption at school boy level? Why do we continue to do this to ourselves??? Soccer wise, we are the clowns of the World and if we really want it to work, then the same rules must apply to soccer as did to rugby and cricket and all the other so called white sports…When people start putting the Country first, we will see change

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