Statement following violent incident Loftus Versveld

Mondays are days we return to work and those of school-going age return to class. For soccer supporters and fans, Mondays are days when some rejoice the victory of the teams they support whereas others lick their wounds. This usually happens in a peaceful environment since this is after all, the Beautiful Game.

Today is different, we meet under circumstances where we are going to address a matter that should not arise at our matches. Violence has no place in our football. No matter how strong we feel, no matter how aggrieved we are, when we engage in violence, it defeats the legitimacy of our feelings and grievances.

Violence is not an answer. Violence diminishes your reasons no matter how good they are. Now we are talking about violence and not the reason why you stood up. Whether it be out of frustration, resignation, or legitimate protest once it becomes violent all the reasons diminish even if they are good or legitimate.

Violence in sport, especially football has got a name around the world, it is called Hooliganism. When you participate in violence in sport you are a Hooligan.

Today could not be business as usual after Saturday’s horrific scenes of violence at a game where, two of South Africa’s teams that ought to have shined each other’s star on the other, had their first encounter since Mamelodi Sundowns earned their African championship star reduced to scenes that have no place in our Beautiful Game.

We therefore have a duty and obligation to answer key questions about this anomaly. I call it an anomaly because it ought not to happen. There is no place for violence in our society. There is no time that it is justified. When it happens, we should pause, determine its cause, and root it out with no fear or favour.

So, key question number one is, “What is Orlando Pirates Football Club’s position on the perpetrators of Saturday’s acts of violence?”

I pronounce here today that the club’s unequivocal – clear, plain and unambiguous position is for the law to take its cause. Thank God to our democracy there is a specific law, governed by an Act, SASREA – the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act.

The Act provide for measures to safeguard the physical well-being and safety of persons and property at sports, recreational, religious, cultural, exhibitional, organisational or similar events held at stadiums, venues or along a route; to provide for the accountability of event role-players; to provide for certain prohibitions; to provide for the risk categorisation of events; to provide for the establishment of measures to deal with safety and security at events; to provide for accreditation of role-players at events; to provide for event ticketing; to provide for the control of access of spectators and vehicles at events; to provide for the issuing of safety certificates for planned or existing stadiums or venues; to provide for the contents of safety certificates and amendments to safety certificates; to provide for appointment of inspectors and their powers of entry and inspection; to provide for the deployment of security services; to provide for spectator exclusion notices; to provide for prohibition notices; to provide for the establishment of an Appeal Board and for appeals; to provide for public liability insurance for events; to provide for payment of fees; to provide for offences and penalties; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

I commit that this matter will receive the highest priority in accordance with the law. A failure to do so will result in a deterioration that will affect the following of football, the sponsors, the broadcasters and the public in ways that will erode the gains we have made and should defend bitterly.

The second key question is the question of performance by the club. A six-one loss by the club of the stature of Orlando Pirates is unacceptable. For that to be followed by a six-nil loss is rubbing salt into a wound.

Having said that, I maintain that violence is not the answer. This afternoon we will be meeting with the technical team to go to the bottom of the problem. There is no denying there is a problem.

It is not an easy task to find a coach for a team of the stature of Orlando Pirates Football Club. When we have found the coach the pressure on them is enormous. This is the reason why when we lose a coach, we look to an insider in an attempt at stability until a replacement is found. It has worked in the past. It is proving to be a challenge this time around. Unfortunately, the candidate identified for the Head Coach position is in contract at another team. We cannot therefore reveal any information at this stage. We had hoped that at the end of January he would be available but there is a buy-out clause until the end of May.

Thirdly, let me pre-empt the question about the investigation relating to the incident involving our previous coach Muhsin Ertugral and player Gyimah. The player has been to the Africa Cup of Nations. The investigation will therefore be concluded now that he has returned.

I would like to conclude by reiterating our pledge. A pledge that we took in 6 December 2001. We took this pledge at a time in our society when the challenge of violence, specifically against women and children, forced us to pause and take stock. Our pledge continue to stand today and its last paragraph is particularly relevant given the incidence of Saturday at Loftus Versveld.

We at Orlando Pirates recognise:

• That women are the base and children the future of our society

• That violence against women and children is like waging a war on ourselves as a nation

We at Orlando Pirates therefore pledge:

• To be vocal and speak out against violence targeted at women and children

• To be exemplary through our deeds and serve as role models

• To be supportive to women and children affected by violence

Like manners once did, violence is now shaping and obsessing our society. If we do not stop it, it will stop us, and our children will have a bleak future.

At this stage I would like us all to rise and observe a moment of silence for the seventeen supporters that lost their lives as a result of the stampede at a football match in Angola.

May their souls repose peacefully. Dr Irvin Khoza


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