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Oh, the sweet pain of Chiefs


FNB Stadium — Amakhosi’s travelling army of fans are generally annoyingly happy-go-lucky. The general exuberance of live South African football matches ensures matchgoers who have not yet been scorned quite to the point of numbing, and you have a group of dancing, singing, smiling lunatics.

On Wednesday night, you could almost have believed it was the mission of Kaizer Chiefs to break these people: to instil a Nietzschean lesson and encourage them to redefine meaning in their lives.

Watching this unfold live over 90 minutes was tragic and hard to laugh at. Every fan has their breaking point and nearly everyone lost it at some point in the FNB Stadium during the 1-0 loss to Cape Town City.

“Colly” was one such individual who fell surprisingly early. Colly made a few highlight reels a year ago for essentially being a cool full-kit wanker — he would do amusing warm-up routines as Steve Komphela stretched his brain and bench to turn things around.

He stood, arms crossed, throughout the entire first half. His grip around himself only got tighter as Khama Billiat scuppered an endless supply of chances. A makarapa-wearing friend grew equally weary as Peter Leeuwenburgh deflected a centre-driven drive for the umpteenth time.

The pair were representative of a clear disconnect between Chiefs and their supporters at the tunnel end, those who cling to the forward barricade and are almost sucked on to the field when the TV camera passes by. Always moving. Constantly singing. They’ve come for a good time.

But by the time the first half ended, not even Monate Mpolaye booming from massive stadium speakers was enough to get them to gesture anything more than a shrug.

READ MORE: New start for stop-start Chiefs

Somewhere in the midst of the 45 minutes of annoyance, four late Capetonians strutted right through the Chiefs ranks, the sole woman among them wearing a blue-and-gold Chelsea shirt that easily blended into her companions’ City jerseys. The home fans paid them no mind, focusing all their energies on willing the ball into the net.

Colly and his mate didn’t return to the same seats as the second half kicked off. Perhaps they reasoned that a new vantage point would somehow change things. It didn’t.

The only player to draw consistent positive whistles from the crowd was Hendrick Ekstein. This column has previously celebrated his renaissance and will stubbornly continue to insist that he can become one of the PSL’s best.

Every touch the mercurial hobbit makes is executed with intention. His impulsive turns and quick recycles make him a nightmare to mark for defenders, who don’t know whether to stay close or back off.

Inevitably he created openings and inevitably they were wasted by the more celebrated Amakhosi frontline.

Given the one-way flow of the game, many forgot that this was a game against an actual human team and not a brick wall. Fans wore bewildered expressions as Virgil Vries inexplicably dropped the ball, which was prodded into his net.

The Capetonians awkwardly celebrated in their personal sea of yellow as, for the first time in the game, the front-row bands’ music was silenced. It tried to lift itself up again after kick-off but could never reach the same gusto; the trombonist blew with the forced enthusiasm of someone who’s just won an all-expenses-paid trip to Port Elizabeth.

“It was right here!” A furious man gestured with his hand in front of his face to his smoking buddy, after Leonardo Castro refused to go for an equalising header. Not even the joint they were smoking behind a guard could calm them down.

The fury reached crescendo as the final whistle blew. Angry faces turned to the management box and demanded that Bobby Motaung be removed from his perch. A red-eyed drunk briskly stepped from the other end of the stand so he, too, could have the opportunity to hurl inaudible expletives in the same direction.

The inquisition continued into the parking lots as fans rhetorically asked one another why there have been no January signings. Cheap supporter kits that Toyota had handed out lay discarded on the ground. Swearing and muttering filled the night air. Everyone has a breaking point.

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Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

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