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Archive for May, 2009

Dear all

We had an amazing scholarship fundraising dinner this year. We changed venue and I personally think that the Teviot Hall was great. Dinner was followed by a concert … a fantastic performance by La Boum! The band of Tom Salter, an ex PhD student from CAS. There has been a lot of dancing.

We are extremely happy because we managed to sell all the tickets and raising £500 with the raffle and £300 with  the blind auction (thanks Grasian!). Thanks everyone for the support, generous contributions and affection! All this was for a good cause, our fully funded shared scholarships for four new MSc students coming to Edinburgh in September!

Enjoy few photos

Barbara Bompani, Edinburgh

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Marc and his green trumpet

Marc and his green trumpet

The Soweto Derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs at the start of May was the first derby at the Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg since the 2001 stadium disaster at the same venue in which 43 people lost their lives. On that day, fans of both teams without tickets found ways into the ground to fill the stadium beyond its maximum capacity. As with all such catastrophes, there were a number of glaring problems. Aside from overcrowding, there were accusations made by the predominantly black fans that white security guards and policemen were racist thugs and were beating some of the fans. Fast forward eight years to two weeks ago and there was a slight sense of trepidation mixed with the heightened anticipation that this fixture between the two glamour clubs of South Africa brings. Having been caught up in crowd trouble in ‘lesser’ games (both Dan and I were in the midst of roughly 200 fans without the proper tickets trying to storm their way into the grandstand at the Sundowns v Chiefs game in January. The one policeman and one security guard trying prevent people from entering were not a match for the crowd and the gates burst open on numerous occasions. They were forced to use pepper spray to keep the people back until mounted police charged the crowd to disperse them. Not long after, Dan was at the Ajax Cape Town v Chiefs game in which it was reported that police had to use rubber bullets to keep the ticketless crowds away), the memorial plaque for the victims of the disaster at the stadium was a stark reminder of what could go wrong. Indeed, from the outset of the game, both Chiefs and Pirates fans were kicking down the barriers in south stand, which separated them from the pitch. Fortunately, the officials had learned lessons from before and rushed to the scene to prevent a pitch invasion. However, in the defence of these fans, they never once looked as if they were going to start trouble. They just wanted more space to sing and dance.

This is not exclusively a South African problem, nor an African problem but one which the global footballing community has to face up to. English football is notorious around the world for hooliganism and the Hillsborough disaster (the twentieth anniversary of which was recently commemorated). Rome as a venue for the Champions League final has been controversial due to its record of crowd violence and deaths at games. South African football games are in fact relatively safe environments and I have been welcomed by literally thousands of football fans to the point that if people don’t know my name, many will know of me and want to have a chat (and a photo opportunity with the crazy ‘whitey’). Essentially, for the few problems that I’ve encountered, I have been to many more games where everything has been fine.

This game was used as a dry run to show FIFA that South Africa can host a major tournament and two major issues stood out. Firstly, there has been much media speculation that the stadia will not be ready. From the progress I’ve seen, this is a fallacy that the pessimists sign up to. The new section of the north stand at Ellis Park was used for the first time at the game. The Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg has already hosted a South Africa international friendly. The stadium at Nelson Mandela Bay is virtually completed and the rapidly growing Green Point Stadium in Cape Town is a striking landmark. Even the Nelspruit stadium with all the scandal, corruption and even alleged assassination should be ready. The footballing infrastructure is not a worry at all. What is worrying is a lack of crowd and police/ security/ steward education. Tickets for local games are based on a first come, first served basis. However, the tickets for big games such as this are segregated yet neither the stewards nor the fans themselves seemed to care about whether they were sitting in the right stand or not. While nothing kicked off, it showed a glaring ineptitude on the part of the football authorities in South Africa to educate both the fans and the stewards about sitting in the right seats/ stands. When Manchester United came over to South Africa last year, there were numerous problems with people sitting in the wrong seats and the stewards not wanting to solve the issue. Come the World Cup, if this happens, there will many problems in the grounds. Traffic policing during these events remain a large cause for concern. The traffic jams after the game were not too bad considering there were 55,000 people trying to leave at the same time. Yet I have encountered many problems at smaller games. A couple of months ago, I travelled with my branch of the Kaizer Chiefs supporters club to Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria for the Chiefs v Supersport game. Even though we had a pass from the club to park inside the perimeter around the stadium, the Metro Police refused to let us in. After 15 minutes of arguing, one of the supporters (who admittedly had a lot to drink by then) jumped out of the taxi and confronted the police. It’s not often that I get scared at football games here but this was one instance. The guy next to me told me that we should get out immediately before we get arrested, even though we weren’t doing anything but other members refused to let me out of the taxi as a matter of principle. Some of them started accusing the police of being racist and declared that apartheid was still alive in Pretoria (ironically everybody was black except me). In the end, the branch members backed down and left to find another way in. The next police roadblock let us in without any problems.

I am fully aware that I am painting an overly bleak picture of SA football and the build-up to the World Cup. These are just extreme examples of the problems/ risks that I’ve encountered during my research. I am in fact very positive about the success of the 2010 World Cup as a football spectacle (lets just not mention anything to do with legacy, development or national identity – that’s a whole book in itself). However, it might have something to do with the fact that I have tickets for the tournament!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not that I’m gloating…

Marc Fletcher, Johannesburg

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