For the love of the game
During the opening weekend of the (South African Premier Soccer League) season, Bloemfontein Celtic’s self-proclaimed number one fan Botha Masilo travelled to the MTN8 quarter-final Bidvest Wits at Bidvest Stadium.
The next day he was at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium for the Platinum Stars vs Free State Stars match and day after that he was in Nelspruit for Orlando Pirates vs SuperSport United.
Milpark, Rustenburg and Mbombela all in one weekend – that is the story of Botha.
While commentators joke about Botha owning a private jet and some fans say the trips are sponsored, the 39-year-old, who is currently unemployed, reveals to KickOff.com the lengths he goes to for the love of football.
Q: Botha, take us back to the beginning. Where does your love of the game come from?
A: It started from an early age, I used to play soccer. But when I finished my matric I met with other boys from other schools and we said to each other, people support Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns.
So why don’t we unite all the schools and form a Bloemfontein Celtic supporters club, which was going to be passionate and support the team all the way. That’s where it started.
It grew and other people got involved. But my friends have given up and I’m alone now. Some of my friends are now working, buying houses and cars, getting married and having children. I’m struggling emotionally and I’m struggling financially too but I love this game.
Q: How do you manage to travel to so many different places in one weekend to watch matches?
A: It’s hectic, my friend, but I’m doing it for the love of the game. I don’t have a sponsor and I’m not working. It becomes more difficult because when I tell people that I don’t have a sponsor they don’t believe this.
They see a person who supports and striving to motivate other people who don’t go to matches. No one is doing anything for me, I’m supporting myself.
Q: So how do you travel to matches?
A: I go to hitchhiking spots, normally on freeways, and wait for cars or trucks that go to Jo’burg. Sometimes I get lifts from journalists. That is how I manage, but it is hell of a difficult thing, my brother.
Q: What about MTN8 or Telkom, don’t they sponsor your trips?
A: No, not at all, no one does anything for me except for my girlfriend. PSL is doing nothing for me, my club is doing nothing and all the sponsors you have just mentioned are doing nothing for me.
Every time I tell people that they don’t agree, but I’m not working and I sacrifice.
Q: Surely that’s costing you…
A: That’s why I'm fighting all the time with my girlfriend because she always says I don’t put anything on the table but I always take what’s on the table and give it to soccer and soccer doesn’t give me anything.
But the problem is when I come back I don’t have anything and the following week I have to travel and get going.
Q: Do you buy match tickets?
A: No. I normally stand outside the venue of the match and ask around for tickets. I meet fans who have extra tickets and they give them to me. But it’s not an easy thing.
Q: What about day to day survival?
A: My girlfriend takes care of me to survive and sometimes players give me R100 here or R200 there to take care of me on the road.
Q: Why don’t you ask for a job from your club to work as a supporters’ co-ordinator or something like that?
A: If the club doesn’t see what I’m doing then they are not interested. If they saw that, they were going to ask me to give them assistance but they are doing nothing.
I’m using the club colours, wearing MTN stuff but they are doing nothing.
Q: What is the most difficult situation you’ve been in?
A: I was in Cape Town for a Bloemfontein Celtic match trying to hitchhike back to Bloemfontein. This policeman came to me and said “my man, you are not supposed to be on the freeway hitchhiking because it’s not safe, it’s dangerous”.
I told him I have to go back to Bloemfontein. He said to me, when I come back I don’t want to see you here.
He came back and asked for my name but I gave him a fake name because I thought I was in trouble.
At the end he gave me a lift to the nearest petrol station. From there I waited for trucks that were going to Jo’burg and that’s how I got back home.
Q: When you reach retirement age, how are you going to survive, as you are not working?
A: That’s where the problem comes and everyone says that. There are players who have played professional football and are now beggars on the streets.
That’s what I ask myself, why am I doing this?
When I go to stadiums there are empty seats because there is no passion for football. So what I’m trying to do is to encourage those who do not come to stadiums.
My message is simple, only the ones who attend matches appreciate when they are doing. But after the match I’m alone and the problem is, when I come back I’m penniless. – KickOff.com