Bloem’s feisty fanfare

Things that Bloemfontein football fans do ahead of a match can leave you both in stitches and astonished.

The Mail & Guardian visited the sleepy town last Saturday ahead of the Bafana Bafana clash against Spain to see what the famously passionate fans who mostly support Bloemfontein Celtic get up to on match days. The Siwelele supporters are known to remain behind their team throughout the match, even when they are on the receiving end.

To my surprise, at about 2pm the streets were fairly quiet around the stadium precinct, with nothing really to show that there was a big match set to take place later (8.30pm). On site there were a number of traffic officers directing cars and persistent street vendors selling counterfeit replicas, flags, vuvuzelas and hats, but the streets were not buzzing, as I expected, given what I had heard about Bloemfontein.

Having had enough of the serene environment, I headed for the nearest township, Bochabela, which is a 10 to 15-minute drive from the CBD. I soon found out that this was where things were happening. First stop was Street Corner chesa nyama, where almost everyone was wearing the Bafana Bafana home replica. Apparently the fans come to this place to have their pap en vleis. But for those of us who arrived a bit late there was no space to move around. The venue, which is rather small, was packed to capacity — no one else was allowed inside.

”There is another chesa nyama if you carry on straight on this road,” said a security guard at the venue. So off I went and almost drove past the place because I had mistaken it for two weddings in the same street — that’s how packed the Township Pub and Grill was. The cars parked outside ranged from an old Nissan Stanza to the latest Audis, BMWs and VWs. I’m sure one would have seen the latest fashion as well if this was not a football match pre-event.

Although this place was also packed there was more than enough space to move around or dance to music pumping from the cars. Most of the patrons had match tickets and those who didn’t were there to try to befriend people who could help them gain access to the stadium.

Beers sell for a mere R7 at this place, which explained the packed cooler boxes. I couldn’t resist the smell of the braaivleis and bought some lunch. When you buy meat you are given a peg with a number and another peg is clipped on the plate that carries the meat. There is a waiting area where your number is called when your meat is ready. But the system can’t be trusted, especially on a busy day.

After an hour or so my number was called out and it was the wrong plate. Someone must have bought R5 wors and R7 meat. No big deal. The owner of the place gave me more meat and I jumped the queue.

As I was waiting for my food I smelled a burning tyre and quickly ran out to see what was happening. There was a white BMW 325i, commonly known as igusheshe in the township, spinning on the busy road. Oncoming traffic stopped and cops watched as the guy spun his car for about 10 minutes.

The BMW had set the mood. Those who didn’t have cars started singing songs that you would normally hear when Bloemfontein Celtic plays. But this time around they laced them with some Bafana lyrics.

As I enjoyed my food and drink a man called Sister Albertina came. He is not the famous Sister Bertina of Bloemfontein Celtics but, dressed in a yellow mini-skirt, stockings, yellow shirt and brown sneakers, he grabbed the patrons’ attention. He danced like there was no tomorrow, revealing to the public and his girlfriend what was hidden under his skirt. I soon learned that men in skirts are popular in Bloemfontein — and they are not gay. They are always in the company of their girlfriends. In fact, their girlfriends dress them up.

”He sometimes does embarrassing things but I love him the way he is. This is Bloemfontein and this is what you will see all the time. He sometimes does more than this when he is with his friends,” said Sister Albertina’s girlfriend, who refused to be named.

Albertina kept us entertained until it was time to go to the stadium. About 7pm he disappeared and the place was empty — as if nothing had happened during the day. But Moshoeshoe Street buzzed as people made their way to the stadium.

Bloemfontein might be seen as a sleepy town, but no township comes close to Bochabela. The people are friendly and always speak the football language. The pre-match and post-match parties were out of this world. Bloemfontein is surely alive when it comes to football.

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Lucky Sindane
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