20 May 2004
Fans are the lifeblood of the sporting industry. Without them, a sizeable chunk of the world’s media would be out of a job, outdoor advertising would be restricted to bus stops, and sponsorships would not have been invented.
For many South Africans, supporting, playing, living, breathing sport is simply the way things are. It is how they are meant to be. And they wouldn’t want it any other way.
Many years ago, I read an interesting book by James Michener. Not a novel the size of a brick, which is what most people think he produces, it was called simply “Michener on Sport”. A true fan of sport, Michener named just three countries as being absolutely fanatical about sport: the then East Germany, Australia, and South Africa.
The fans and the flag
Today’s South African sports fans are easily spotted – the flag “new” South African catches the eye at sporting events around the world. And with face-painting so much in vogue, it is common to see the six colours leaping out from cheering South African faces.
The ubiquitous flags are popular items on sale at big matches, along other regalia. Supporters’ kit and memorabilia are big business in South Africa, and soccer’s Bafana Bafana, rugby’s Springboks, and cricket’s Proteas sell huge numbers of shirts.
South African sports fans love a winner, but they can be extremely critical of failure, and the chorus of disquiet when things are not going well can become quite deafening.
However, despite dire predictions, and ceaseless complaints, South African sports fans continue to support their teams. Even when national support is not an issue, South Africans are true sport lovers at heart.