Saddam loves Bafana Bafana and
his trusty vuvuzela, which, he says,
he invented. (Image: Bongani Nkosi)
Most South Africans love Bafana Bafana, the national football team, but some love it more than others – and are always ready to go to daunting heights for it.
Freddie “Saddam” Maake is one of those fanatics who gives his all when it comes to supporting Bafana. In victory or defeat, Maake is always behind the team, using his trademark vuvuzela trumpet to inspire other fans to show the same spirit.
“I always tell supporters they must not boo Bafana when they’re not playing well,” he said when I met him at his home in Tembisa, a township east of Johannesburg. “It hurts the players. The players must always be strong.
“I like to be a technical advisor to supporters. I encourage them to travel with the team,” he added.
Maake’s dining room is laden with football memorabilia, ranging from makarapas, vuvuzelas, supporter awards and photographs of him with top players. “This is my museum,” he said.
This unyielding passion for Bafana, the 55-year-old father of nine recalls, was ignited in 1992 when South African sport was reincorporated into the international arena after years of isolation. Initially he was part of the almost 42 000-strong crowd who showed up to support the match between South Africa and Zimbabwe on 16 August of that year.
“I travelled with Bafana Bafana to Zimbabwe in 1992, and from there the show went on,” he said. “I remember we lost that game 4-1.”
A football stadium is never dull when Maake and his friends are in the stands. Rest assured that when they’re there, the fan zone becomes a hotbed of vibrancy: they wear comical outfits to grab attention and loud toots ooze from their vuvuzelas. They also sing and dance to get the atmosphere going.
One of Maake’s friends, David Mabu, describes their style of support as a fusion of African and European subcultures. “We’re unique, as we mix African and European energy.”
Bafana’s top fan
Maake can be seen as one of the “godfathers” of the type of stadium atmosphere that’s experienced nowadays during local and international football games played in the country, having followed Bafana since the 1990s.
“We were very excited at the stadiums in 1996,” he said, referring to Bafana’s winning of the Africa Cup of Nations in that year.
It was in 1997 that he was first recognised as being the number-one follower of local football, winning a national award for “supporter of the year”.
South Africa’s first participation in the Fifa World Cup in 1998 in France brings back great memories for Maake. “I won a trip to the World Cup for being a number-one supporter,” he said.
He’s also been to many of the Africa Cup of Nation (Afcon) tournaments, he said. “We have travelled to most of the Afcons. I remember in 2001 we went to Mali.”
The 2002 Fifa World Cup in Korea and Japan was also a highlight for him – as was the following Cup in Germany in 2006. Although South Africa didn’t qualify for this, Maake said the South African Football Association (Safa) sponsored his trip to attend. “Safa sent me there to represent South Africa, to fly our flag.”
According to Maake, Safa has sponsored most of his trips and tickets to games in recognition of his efforts. “Safa has really been supportive to me.”
As an official supporter, he’s been to more than 20 countries – including Denmark, Egypt and Swaziland – and always takes along a vuvuzela, an instrument he claims to have invented, to cheer Bafana on.
Awards recognising his passion keep coming through: most recently, in March, he jetted off to Ghana with a Safa official to collect an accolade for being such an enthusiastic fan.
‘I’m a football slave’
Also an ardent fan of the local Kaizer Chiefs team, Maake practically lives for football. “I live soccer. I drink soccer … I’m a soccer slave,” he said.
“If you say ‘let’s go to the stadium’, I’ll take my vuvuzela and go there.”
Although his fanaticism started in the 1990s, Maake said he has been a fan of football since 1965, and has even lost a few jobs owing to his obsession with stadiums and the sport. Nowadays he earns a living from selling his music album, Vuvuzela Saddam Maake Volume 2, released this year, and vuvuzelas. He trades from his house and stadiums.
2010 Fifa World Cup
Maake has already been to 12 of the matches, including all three Bafana games, and has drawn a number of tourists to his home since the kick-off earlier this month.
Although disappointed that South Africa has been knocked out, he’s still enjoying the tournament. “I was hoping to attend 20 matches, at least,” he said. He’s now supporting Ghana and Brazil.
Always positive about the sport in South Africa and Bafana’s future, Maake said he’s consoled by the fact that the country is hosting the “best World Cup” ever, and that it will leave a lasting legacy.
“It’s not the field of play that matters … this is the best World Cup you’ll ever see. One team will win, but the stadiums are ours. Beyond 2010 we’ll [continue to] use these stadiums,” he said.