SAFA's Unconventional Boost to Match Attendance
In a recent match held at Orlando Stadium, the South African Football Association (SAFA) took a unique approach to encourage a higher turnout. SAFA CEO, Lydia Monyepao, revealed that the association had collaborated with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) embassy to rally more supporters for the game. The move was a response to the low attendance observed at a previous match. Despite the surprising strategy, it evidently worked as the number of DRC fans in the stadium increased as the game progressed.
Low Ticket Sales, High Turnout
Interestingly, only 2,387 tickets had been sold thirty minutes before the match started, with a total of 9,140 tickets distributed overall. However, the number of DRC fans swelled as the match continued, giving the visiting team a home-like atmosphere. This significant shift in attendance was a direct result of SAFA's decision to engage with the DRC embassy and mobilize DRC supporters.
Reactions to the Attendance Shift
The significant presence of DRC supporters did not go unnoticed by those involved in the match. Both Bafana coach Hugo Broos and Man of the Match Lyle Foster expressed disappointment at the low turnout of South African fans. However, SAFA's role in this turnout was later revealed by Monyepao, who explained that the association actively sought a larger DRC crowd in the stands following the low attendance observed at a previous game.
Why the DRC Fans?
The decision to mobilize DRC fans, according to Monyepao, was based on the significant interest shown by Congolese fans. This interest was particularly noted after their team's game against Sudan and their qualification for AFCON. SAFA seized the opportunity to tap into this enthusiasm and ensure a better-supported game. Monyepao also hinted at another undisclosed reason for the high turnout of DRC fans, adding an intriguing layer to this unusual strategy.
Accommodating the Visiting Team
In addition to mobilizing the DRC fans, SAFA made another significant accommodation for the visitors. The game's kick-off time was moved from 6pm to 5pm to accommodate the visitors' travel arrangements post-match. The DRC Football Association had requested an earlier game due to some of their players needing to return to Europe, and there was also a midnight flight back to DRC. Monyepao emphasized that as it was an international friendly match, it was important to make the visiting team comfortable.
Implications and Consequences
While SAFA's strategy succeeded in boosting attendance, it also raised questions about the support for the home team and the implications for future games. As international friendly matches continue, the methods used to encourage audience participation and create a vibrant atmosphere within the stadium will undoubtedly evolve. However, the balance between accommodating visiting teams and ensuring robust home support will remain a critical consideration for associations like SAFA.