South African football woke up with a huge hangover and a credibility crisis on Sunday morning after the display of lawless violence and destruction that followed Kaizer Chiefs’ Nedbank Cup semifinal defeat to Free State Stars at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
A security guard was fighting for their life in hospital on Sunday after being set upon by a group of rioting fans in the stadium. The vicious attack was captured by spectators on cellphones and posted on social media.
They were repeatedly punched and kicked. After they fell to the ground‚ a man dressed in khaki trousers hit the security guard with a part of the speaker system‚ which had been destroyed as rioters ran onto the field, destroying everything in sight.
About R5m in damage was done to audiovisual equipment‚ including a camera belonging to the SABC that was set on fire.
Cars outside the stadium were damaged. Plastic seats and advertising boards were ripped apart as Chiefs fans invaded the pitch on the final whistle.
There were other injuries‚ among them a young ball boy who was left traumatised by the wanton destruction around him.
Police and security guards failed to hold back the invaders‚ raising questions about the effectiveness of security at high-profile soccer matches.
Clubs are forced by the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to spend heavily on match-day security but this system rarely proves effective when put to the test. The police drove a single riot vehicle onto the side of the pitch behind the Chiefs’ bench towards the end of the game when people in the crowd began throwing missiles at Amakhosi coach Steve Komphela. In-crowd stewards should have moved quickly to eject those perpetrators‚ but that did not happen and an assortment of objects rained down as the game headed to a close.
On the final whistle‚ everyone on the field‚ including police officers‚ fled down the tunnel‚ allowing the invaders to set about trashing everything in their way, including the large audio speakers and television cameras. Much of the chaos was caught on social media and there would be enough evidence to trace‚ identify and arrest those involved.
But as seen repeatedly in the past‚ the sense of moral outrage after such incidents at domestic games quickly fades.
After similar acts of violence at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria more than a year ago, when Orlando Pirates fans ran amok and a rival supporter was beaten in similar circumstances, no perpetrators were punished.
Dwindling crowds have long been a problem for the PSL in recent years. Saturday’s images will further discourage people from attending games.
There is now a credibility crisis brewing that could get worse for the PSL if sponsors start pulling out because they do not want to be associated with such violent scenes.
Two people have been arrested in connection with Saturday’s unrest.
"Two suspects aged 27 and 33 were arrested for public violence and malicious damage to property‚" said Captain Nqobile Gwala on Sunday.
The pair were set to appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
A small band of Free State Stars supporters were also attacked but managed to get to safety after their club’s general manager‚ Rantsi Mokoena‚ came to their rescue.
At least two hours after the final whistle the pitch was littered with debris as the two teams delayed their departure from the stadium until the majority of spectators had been cleared from the precinct.
PSL spokesman Lux September condemned the "lawless violence", but a full statement from the league was expected later.