/ 11 May 2011

Chiefs, Pirates, Ajax — they all suck

So it’s come to this. Two bloated Johannesburg soccer brick-houses and one minor Cape Dutch outhouse are left to compete for the ultimate prize in South African football.

No, not tickets to the English FA Cup final, you colonised twit. The right to call themselves Premier Soccer League champions. And everything hinges on the last games of the season! As we sports presenters like to say: “You couldn’t make it up.” Well, unless you had a brain slightly larger than a chicken’s, obviously, and a little more creativity than an unwatered houseplant. But then you wouldn’t be on TV, would you?

How many of us really know the rich and proud history of these clubs? Or poor and proud history, in the case of Ajax? I’ve taken the trouble to do some extensive research, so that you don’t have to. Don’t bother checking these facts — I’m a Santos supporter, you can trust me.

First up are the great Orlando Pirates, formed as long ago as 1937, which is why they play in black and white. Fans of the Pirates are known as “The Ghost”, a name first adopted in homage to the porous, almost ectoplasmic nature of the Pirates’ defensive walls at free kicks. You’ll be able to tell Pirates’ fans by their famous “crossed wrists” gesture, which looks very much like arms in a pair of handcuffs.

There are different stories about what this gesture actually means. Some say this is a defiant symbol used by Pirates fans to show solidarity with their chairman, Irvin Khoza, who was arrested for tax evasion in 2001, and who is often linked by scurrilous gossipmongers to illegal activities. Others claim that whatever the crossed wrists gesture used to mean, it has now become a “crossed-legs” gibe at Kaizer Chiefs fans, tauntingly suggesting that no president of a country is ever going to condescend to open up a Chiefs female supporter’s legs.

This, for those of you who are more interested in politics than sport (although one hopes you stopped reading this a long time ago, if this is the case), is a reference to President Zuma showing his support for Pirates by hoisting the yardarm and impregnating Chairman Khoza’s daughter. Heave-ho, me hearties, indeed.

A third, discredited school of thought suggests that the gesture is intended to convey a skull and crossbones, similar to that used by pirates on their flags. Oh, who cares anyway, I hate Orlando Pirates.

Let’s move on to Kaizer Chiefs. Founded in 1970 as Kentucky Fried Chiefs, the name was later changed in homage to the great Prussian philanthropist of the 19th century. Chiefs’ nickname is Amakhosi, the Zulu word for “The Chickens”, and they’re the biggest club in South Africa. They claim to have over 16-million supporters, many of whom are alive.

Kaizer Chiefs play out of Naturena, a small nudist colony 6km outside Johannesburg. The Chickens have won an amazing 80 titles in 36 years, including Club Most Likely to Throw a Tantrum When They Lose a Game, Mr Dodgy European Coach (Bad Hair Division), and Mr Sexy-Sexy Goalkeeper 2011 (Runner-up).

Interesting fact: In an attempt to avoid paying the electricity bill, Chiefs have used as many as nine stadiums in Johannesburg as their home ground. Chiefs are also known as The Glamour Boys. Incredibly, this is one of only two ridiculous things in this column I didn’t have to make up. And to think they call we South Africans homophobic.

Then there’s Ajax Cape Town. The club was founded in 1998 by Seven Stars and Cape Town Spurs as part of a money-saving attempt to use hand-me-down shirts donated by Ajax Amsterdam, as well as a way to finance lunch for Bennie McCarthy. Many years later, Ajax Cape Town is now part of that rich tradition of mutual cooperation and exchange between Africa and Europe. Just like the slave trade and gold mining.

Ajax’ nickname is The Urban Worriers, a reference to the fact that they get super nervous when they have to leave their seaside village and go play in big cities like Jo’burg and Maritzburg. Despite the fact that none of their supporters can actually pronounce Ajax, the team are wildly popular in the Cape, if by wildly popular you mean that people go watch them when they’re playing Chiefs or Pirates.

Ajax Cape Town played their first official game ever against Kaizer Chiefs in 1999, causing a major upset by beating Chiefs 1-0. Chiefs fans in the Cape reacted in disgust by voting DA, the start of the rot that allowed the Democratic Alliance to take over Cape Town. Their coach’s name is, incredibly, Foppe de Haan (see Glamour Boys paragraph above).

So there it is. A fascinating end to the season. Cape Dutch guile against Jozi bling. If only they were actually playing each other. But one thing we soccer fans do know, the losers will always have a creative excuse.

Follow Chris on Twitter, and visit his blog at chrisroper.co.za