Rethinking Needed As Black Clubs Struggle To Grow

Myolisi Gophe, 30 October 2019

It’s inevitable not to employ the race microscope when observing the Local Football Association (LFA) Promotional Play-offs in Cape Town. With the region so diverse, it always intrigued me to see which area the next winners will come from.

The reason for that is simply. As much as the 32 LFA champions that fought tooth and nail to win the play-offs in the past two weekends come from all communities, the desired destination – the Third Division – lacks representation from Black African communities. Only Young Rebels from Lingelethu in Site C and Cape Town United from Langa are among the 16-team league. And the contribution (social cohesion, economic development, etc) of clubs playing in upper divisions in their communities is immeasurable.

The 2019 play-offs were concluded on Saturday and Trinitarians of Eslies River grinded to a 2-1 win over Wanderers of Langa while Jamestown FC of Athlone brushed aside Bafana United of Mandela Park 6-1 to go through to the Third Division. Last year’s winners were Woodlands United of Mitchell’s Plain and Crystal Palace of Manenberg, while Young Pirates of Heideveld and Matroosfontein of Elsies River were the winners the year prior.

Is there any hope that this scenario may change in future?

A number of clubs from various black townships have really performed well in the past two weekends in search of the elusive promotion to Third Division. Beside semi-finalists Bafana and Wanderers, GameYethu of Philippi came close, losing to Wanderers in the quarter finals. Black Birds of Nyanga, Zimasa Stars of Khayelitsha, Clover of Mandalay and Cape Royal of Strand also gave a good showing, only failing to win their groups on goal-difference.

Other LFA champs, though, left a lot to be desired for. Clubs such Celtic from Delft, which completed one of their group games with only seven players, and New Stars of Monwabisi, which was humiliated 19-1, will need serious introspection before they can make their mark in the play-offs. Maybe there were factors at play that we were not privy to that led to such situations.

But many of the black football authorities need to rethink their strategies and devise new plans to change the situation. Putting aside personal egos and pulling resources together could be an answer – for the sake of impactful community development through the sport of soccer.

Competition to win LFAs is what makes football interesting. But it often becomes crystal clear as early as in June which team will win LFA leagues. Why not ensuring that such a team is supported and strengthened with the best players, coaching staff, training field and resources, among other things. Unity is strength after all.

And the sooner club owners realise that their projects are not for their own but for the community – through their actions, not just in words – the better. Club owners should not just claim to represent their communities but should be accountable for all their actions to community structures.

The kind of ownership followed by Barcelona and Real Madrid – two of the biggest clubs in the world – which are owned by thousands of their members/fans, is one way that township club owners can learn from. I stand to be corrected.