Quinton Fortune: World Cup Hosting Has Not Benefited South African Football

By Peter Alegi | September 24th, 2014 6 Comments

Photo by Marc Fletcher http://imbiza.matrix.msu.edu/?p=173

Quinton Fortune played seven seasons with Manchester United and 46 times for South Africa. On September 23, he wrote an excellent piece in The Guardian about a topic dear to me and to many readers of this blog: the impact of the 2010 World Cup on the growth and development of South African football.

Given the billions of rands spent on new and revamped stadiums and transport infrastructure, Fortune asks, was hosting the tournament a boon for the local game? “Judging by the poor attendances at top-flight games not involving the country’s two most popular clubs, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, who are also by far the most powerful in financial terms, and the poor performances of the national team Bafana Bafana, the answer unfortunately has to be a resounding ‘no’,” Fortune writes.

His concerns are numerous, important, and inter-related. The World Cup, Fortune asserts, did nothing to alter the Chiefs-Pirates duopoly, which continues to capture the lion’s share of the attention from fans, media, and sponsorship money. He points out that the quality of play in the Premier Soccer League is not terribly good, as evidenced by last year’s top scorer, Bernard Parker, boasting a meager 10 goals.

Fortune then notes how the swanky World Cup stadiums in Cape Town, Nelspruit, Polokwane, and Port Elizabeth are now massive financial drains on local municipalities struggling to deal with many pressing social needs in perhaps the most unequal country in the world.

The former Man United midfielder does not spare the PSL’s satellite broadcaster, SuperSport, which bankrolls the South African league while offering 24/7 matches and highlights of European football (such as EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Champions League). This contradiction is another reason why the PSL is “losing fans who prefer to watch the football from the comfort of their homes, receiving high definition pictures, while also having a choice of watching (better quality) football from other parts of the world,” says Fortune.

The way forward, Fortune concludes, requires harnessing South Africa’s world-class infrastructure and abundance of football talent to forge “a well-planned development programme which will develop that talent into realising its full potential.” How this should be done is the challenging part.



Chris Bolsmann

September 24th, 2014 | 10:02 pm    

Quinton Fortune is right on so many levels. What always strikes me every time I spend time in South Africa is the popularity of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates outside of Soweto. The sad reality is that Chiefs and Pirates dominate the league and in turn negatively impact on the national team. I’d suggest all away games for both sides become home matches and all cup competition are ‘rigged’ to get the Soweto giants into finals. There seems to be an acceptance of the dominance at all levels of the game. Sociologically and historically there is virtually nothing on either teams. We need critical studies that shed light on both teams and the impact they have on the South African game. Chiefs were ‘only’ formed in 1970 as an all-star side of sorts after Kaizer Motaung returned from Atlanta Chiefs in the NASL. He too played for Orlando Pirates. We need research on sides such as Amazulu from KwaZulu-Natal, Moroka Swallows from Johannesburg and Mamelodi Sundowns from Pretoria. They are important role players in the local football scene. Local football matches have many female fans, we need to hear their voices too. Chiefs and Pirates have vast business interests beyond football, from life insurance to funeral cover and both attract significant corporate sponsorship, we need studies on this aspect of the game too. Football is by far the most popular sport and recreation practice in South Africa, yet the game remains so under researched. As much as the 2010 World Cup has brought the spotlight onto football in South Africa, it also meant we have forgotten more crucial and important parts of the local game.


September 25th, 2014 | 5:04 am    

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Chris. So much work to be done. Researchers, funders, supervisors, moral supporters, and publishers needed!

Derek Catsam

September 25th, 2014 | 10:09 am    

Another side that warrants real attention — and that may well provide a model for the non-Big Two clubs to follow — may be Bloem Celtic, which has a feverish, large local base of fans but seemingly little national (and certainly international) presence. Bloem also might provide a way to think about South African football in a non-Gauteng-centric way.

Thabo Dladla

September 26th, 2014 | 1:51 am    

Both kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are not popular because of their football. They can only attract big crowds in matches involving both teams. In other matches in their home grounds the attendance is very poor. It is about the quality of football. The potential for creative, attractive and constructive football is huge however coaching methods, foreign ideas have made the game very ordinary in this part of the world. People see attending a match between these two as an opportunity to catch up with friends. I doubt if the majority in the VIP areas watch football. In the stands you see fans singing and at times turning their faces away from the game. Vuvuzela and singing provide them with more entertainment. South Africans – Black in particular identify a lot with things done in style. Check their weddings and even funerals if you do not agree with me. They hate to be ordinary. The challenges are not only about lack of resources at grassroots level but most importantly lack of relevant ideas in coaching, administration is not helping the situation.

Marc Fletcher

September 26th, 2014 | 6:11 am    

Of course, we can all turn round and say “we told you so” as I think many of us saw this coming but I think that last year finally turned my enthusiasm for SA soccer to apathy. The fans who attend can be brilliant to party and celebrate with (my vuvuzelas and makarapas are now gathering dust now that I’m back in the UK) but a crowd of 5,000-10,000 at FNB Stadium is just dire. It didn’t help that many of the Chiefs matches that I went to were scheduled for after 8pm on a Saturday evening. Even ‘die-hard’ fans were being put off going to these, instead choosing to watch from home and then immediately going out drinking with friends. Increasing costs of tickets and merchandise doesn’t help matters either – rugby is already starting to become the cheaper option.

Any lessons that could have been learned during the World Cup regarding logistics also went unheeded. Attempts at trying to formalise car parking were regularly undone by a lack of enforcing the car ticket system (tickets were sold on Computicket) but much worse was the lack of road traffic planning and management. Utter chaos ensues after a Chiefs-Pirates fixture and especially after the Pirates Champions League final first leg.

In private, the PSL admits that many of the clubs depend on the grants generated from TV revenue, who consequently cannot see the need in developing their fan-bases. It’s a big, steaming mess.


September 29th, 2014 | 6:36 am    

I am not sure if the World Cup 2010 was ever set up to enhance local football performance in South Africa. It was focused on kinds of “development” that supported many NGOs to set up “educational” or “awareness” projects and “develop” infrastructure at random. In my research experience, soccer players at grassroots level would rather lose than to be seen as disloyal to the club they play for or support, which more than often they are supporting by making many sacrifices on daily basis. My observations are that soccer fandom in South Africa cannot be understood in terms of attendance at the PSL games … it seems to me that it is either “very” local or only international. A complex that reflects its historical makings …

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