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South Africa’s Saturday Premiership Fixture on High Alert Over Fears of Security

Tensions are high amidst Saturday’s Absa Premiership fixture between home-side Ajax Cape Town and crowd-pullers Kaizer Chiefs over growing safety concerns with hosting a possible sell-out game at the 21,500-seater Athlone Stadium

However, Ajax can find some solace in a beefed up security ahead of this weekend’s fixture despite calls for a postponement earlier in the week, out of fear of the what the aftermath might be.

“We are ready for the match on Saturday and we are quite confident that all the safety aspects surrounding the match itself will be followed,” said South African Services captain Junaid Alcock.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“This game has been classified as medium-risk and not Risk-A. However, we’ve had to up our numbers‚ not the police as such‚ but the general security personnel in and around the stadium to match the weight that this fixture carries.[/perfectpullquote]

“It’s all systems go‚” added captain Alcock.

Ajax was seeking a postponement earlier in the week after being forced to play this fixture at the smaller stadium despite ticket sells expected to sell well beyond 21,500.

Cape Town Stadium was ideally the preferred hosting venue but its unavailability because of a musical festival, leaves concern for where Kaizer Chiefs – whose last visits to Cape Town have drawn crowds averaging 35,000 – will seat all its fans.

“But for Athlone, we can only have 21 500 spectators and with complimentary tickets and other sundries it means we can only sell 17,800 to the public‚” A jax club chairman Ari Efstathiou said earlier in the week.

“This is problematic because this is a high demand fixture. We need to add that Chiefs are currently top of the log‚ it’s the end of the month and a Saturday night game‚ so we are expecting demand far exceeding 21,500.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”We expect there will be many who turn up without tickets making security difficult‚”[/perfectpullquote]

Efstathiou told a press conference at the club.

“But the PSL are insisting that the game must be played. At the first meeting with police last week it was agreed not to hold the game but a second meeting was insisted on and this also agreed that it would not be safe.

“… The police are also stretched because of the event at the Cape Town Stadium and the rugby at Newlands (The Stormers play the Bulls at the start of the new Super Rugby season).

“… We have tried since October to find a solution but we were not allowed to go to Moses Mabhida. Chiefs have not agreed to our request for a postponement either.”

“If we are forced to go ahead with the game we face being liable for any problems that occur.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”The police have only 80 members who are available to handle matters outside and we have a security contingent of 400 inside the stadium. Obviously, we are extremely concerned.”[/perfectpullquote]

The availability and dedication of law enforcement personnel may calm some tensions but the rest remains to be seen until the full 90 minutes of the game. Chiefs lies second on the Premier Soccer League table with 33 points from 18 months while Ajax is fighting to keep up in 11th position with only 19 points.

“To be honest our concerns around safety and security around this fixture have not gone away completely‚” Ajax Supporter Liaison Officer, Thabiso “Shooz” Mekuto said on Friday.

“However‚ we have a job to do on Saturday and our job is to make sure that the game goes ahead and finish without any complications.

“All the law enforcement agencies are ready. Our own security personnel‚ the metro police and the police‚ everybody is ready for this big game.

“As the club we are confident that our safety and security measures are up to standard and acceptable as per the rules to deal with anything that game has to offer‚” said Mekuto.

In a previous clash with Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates – who was thrashed 6-0 – witnessed its fans break into a riot two weeks ago that led to a pitch invasion and destruction.

At least 13 injuries were accounted for but It is not certain what trail this kind of behavior from fans will set for the future of South African football. Property of broadcasting TV stations was also destroyed and included SuperSport and SABC television cameras and cables.

It also raises concern for easily targeted football fans such as mothers and children that the choice to enjoy a community development activity, comes with very high risks.

“The game has got mixed emotions. The good part and the unfortunate part,” Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane said afterwards.

“It’s football and these things do happen. The last time I saw me and my players running down the tunnel was in Setif [in Algeria in the CAF Champions League last year, where there was also a pitch invasion].

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“It’s unfortunate. But I think the league is there. Everybody knows that issues like this should not be condoned.[/perfectpullquote]

“I usually bring my son to games. Today I’m happy he did not come – he was watching on TV.

“This is what we don’t want, bringing children to the game and women to the game.

“We have really improved in South Africa. When you find unfortunate things like this it’s not nice because we’re struggling to fill the stadiums and to put a good product on the pitch.”

Egypt and Angola have shown the continent what rowdiness, crowd stampede and violence leave in the wake of their destructive path.

Hopefully, Pirates’ newly appointed coach can give a significant lifeline to an already desperate looking crowd.

For the most part, it will leave a stain on the sport particularly for South Africa football.



Featured photo: Orlando Pirates invade the pitch at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, 11, February. (Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix)

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