Football is a passionate game – it not only brings people together, but it divides them as well. Loyal football fans will forever be partisan to their clubs, and with pride at stake, there's heightened emotion at every game.
But when football fans get overzealous and violent when their team don't perform, carnage and hooliganism can ensue.
Hooliganism damages the image of SA football – which is why teams are punished for the behaviour of their fans.
SA football is going to lose from fans who are hooligansKickOff Anaylst
An incident in 2017 involving Orlando Pirates fans finally had a judgement passed down a year later in 2018 – on Tuesday, Pirates was ordered by the Premier Soccer League [PSL] to play two home matches in a closed stadium. This is the sanction for crowd violence at the game between Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Stadium on February 11, 2017.
Pirates ended up getting thrashed 6-0, but the damage had been already inflicted by their own fans (although some Sundowns fans were also to blame). The ban means that Pirates, still in with a chance at the title, must play their next must-win encounter without their 12th man – the fans.
"It's sad what is happening in SA football, especially after the 2001 stampede. We should have learned from that incident Daily Sun, Sports editor
In last year's Sundowns clash, belligerent Pirates fans were not impressed by the scoreline as the goals started to pile up. They took matters into their own hands by invading the pitch, destroying broadcast equipment, and ultimately inflicting a serious dent in the image of SA football. The pitch invasion could be seen as evidence of SA football's perennially abusive relationship with violence.
Pirates fans are no strangers to football hooliganism – there have been infamous cases in which crowd trouble has caused the death of fans. HuffPost spoke to senior football analyst to find out more.
Mathews Mpete, sports editor at Daily Sun/Sunday Sun said: "Teams like Orlando Pirates are big teams and this [football] is a game of emotions. What sparks this much violence is a group of hooligans who start chaos, and the rest follow."
"It's sad what is happening in SA football – especially after the 2001 stampede. We should have learnt from that incident, and now we are dealing with another."
Mpete said Pirates deserved the punishment for not being able to control their fans – but ultimately, that the PSL suffered a blow by only passing judgment a year later.
Irvin Khoza, chairperson of the PSL, commented on the 2017 incident: "Violence has no place in our football. No matter how strong we feel and aggrieved you are, when you engage in violence, you discredit the legitimacy of our feelings and grievances."
There is no place for violence in footballIrvin Khoza
"Passion and emotions cannot be the excuse for football holiganism," says KickOff analyst Sibusiso Mjikeliso. He believes that the increase in hooliganism will boost the trend of the new generation not going to stadiums, for fear of football violence.
"Passion does not excuse the behaviour of fans; it hurts our league and it means parents will not want to take their children to a stadium because of our history of violence. We already have an attendance issue in our football – we cannnot fill up our stadiums."
He added that if the fans cleaned up their act and created a positive environment, supporters would flock to the stadiums, and the reputation of SA football would be restored.
We want families to stadiums, but sometimes you have to think twice – is safety is guaranteed?Timothy Molobi
Timothy Molobi, deputy sports editor at City Press, said: "Violence has always been there in our football; we cannot justify hooliganism in our game. It takes time to build a brand like PSL, then a few supporters come and destroy that."
Molobi felt the punishment should have been more harsh – suggesting five matches – and that it should not have taken 14 months for the incident to be sorted, saying "justice delayed is justice denied".
"We want families to stadiums, but sometimes you have to think twice – is safety is guaranteed?"
But its not just Pirates fans – Chiefs fans also got themselves involved in an incident, when objects were thrown at their coach and players after a disappointing result.
In a match in 2017 between Pirates and Chiefs, the game continued despite the fact that two people were killed in a stampede prior to kickoff. The teams proceeded with their Carling Black Label cup match despite the tragedy.
Was football more important than lives lost?
Back in April 2001, 43 people were killed in a crush at Ellis Park Stadium during another match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
And 10 years before that, 42 people died in a crush at the Oppenheimer Stadium in the city of Orkney – with the same two teams playing.
All these incidents encourage the conclusion that SA football's dilemma of violence will continue to haunt the PSL, and deter supporters from attending PSL games – which then means that the turnout in SA football will remain below par.
Hooliganism does not belong in the beautiful game.