Tribute to the Gallant Orlando Pirates

 

The much-awaited Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League final has come and gone.

It is now perhaps stale news that the “Buccaneers”, Orlando Pirates Football Club of South Africa lost to Al Ahly of Egypt. The coach of the South African team admitted that the war was lost in the first leg battle in Johannesburg when Pirates drew with their Egyptian rivals at home at Orlando Stadium.

Although that is now all water under the bridge and the quality of Al Ahly is not in dispute, what is very disturbing is the manner in which Pirates lost in Cairo. It is an established fact that Egyptian football fans always utilise green laser lights to shine into the eyes of the visiting teams in order to disorientate them. It was really not a surprise that Pirates’ players were subjected to this kind of treatment.

For me what is really surprising is that the match officials did not do anything to protect the Pirates’ players. 

The match was just continued when even on TV one could notice that the lasers were constantly in the faces of the Pirates’ players. 

It cannot be said that the match officials did not see this unethical and gross interference with the game.

The most ethical thing to do was to stop the match and make a public announcement to the fans that whoever was shining lasers into the faces of the opposition players should stop. If this kind of practice continues, the match should be rightfully called off.

The effects of the lasers on the eyesight and general health of the affected players is not known. It can definitely be subject for further scientific and medical enquiry. It is the responsibility of CAF to ensure that the tournaments take place in environments characterised by safety and fairness for the “good of the game”, in accordance with FIFA values. 

The way the second leg of the 2013 CAF Champions league Final was conducted is a total negation and an onslaught on FIFA values of good ethics and fair play. The fact that Egyptian football authorities do not publicly condemn these acts of unwarranted aggression against visiting teams is shocking to say the least.

The desire to win at all costs is a sign of sick minds, which does not augur well for the balanced development of sport. 

The ethical conduct of the Pirates fans during the first leg encounter certainly deserves accolades and should be an example to other fans all over the continent and indeed the whole world.

In this modern day of football, atrocious crimes are being perpetrated against visiting teams and despite numerous complaints and reports, there is no recorded evidence that CAF is taking measures to clean African football.

Mistreatment of visiting teams is actually the norm rather than the exception in club and national team competitions in Africa. The trials and tribulations of Pirates on their journey to the final are well documented. They make sad reading indeed and are a bad advertisement for football on the African continent.

Notwithstanding these travails, Pirates have proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are tough and resilient team. They are a source of pride not only to South African football fans but an inspiration to the whole of Southern African sport. The Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) should award them for being excellent ambassadors for the football in the region.

Furthermore, in order to boost football development, the region should consider club tournaments to prepare Southern African clubs for rigorous continental tournaments. Governments and private sponsors should also actively encourage and strengthen their clubs in  preparation for engagement with their counterparts from the rest of the continent.

Great national teams are built by great football clubs. Clubs are the nuclei of development. Without strong clubs, Southern Africa national teams will not be able to qualify and compete and effectively at the Africa Cup of Nations and FIFA World Cup. Orlando Pirates Football Club are clearly pointing the way forward for Southern African football.

As the old adages by Bob Marley go, “the lips of the righteous teach many but fools die for want of wisdom” as well as “In the abundance of water, a fool is thirsty”. 

How many clubs in Southern Africa have got vibrant academy or development programmes for Under 15, Under 17 or Under 20 players? A cursory survey would reveal that they very few indeed. 

Why is that people want to reap where they have not sown? How can Southern African clubs and national teams want to play like Brazil or Spain when they have not invested in junior development?

Southern Africa has got an abundance of raw football talent, lots of diamonds which need to be cut, polished and turned to sparkling jewellery for the world to marvel at. Instead of lamenting Pirates’ loss, the whole of Southern Africa should actually draw positive lessons from this “failure”. 

Football authorities and development experts must turn this failure into success. 

There is no time to be wallowing in self-pity. There is need to turn this disappointment or setback into something great that will have far reaching consequences for the development of the game in Southern Africa. It is obvious that South Africans and Southern Africans did not learn much from the victory of Pirates in African Club Champions 1995 but I have no doubt that they will learn a lot from the recent debacle in Cairo.

Orlando Pirates Football Club are obviously disappointed they did not win their second title but they can certainly walk with their heads high. 

Halala ma Buccaneer Halala! Keep up the good work!

November 2013
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