“Football is beautiful when you have supporters inside the stadium, they create an ambience and an atmosphere. Without them there, it’s a funeral”
IT’S not the first time Giovanni Solinas will walk into an empty stadium in his coaching career, which is why the Kaizer Chiefs coach said this week it will be a daunting task attempting to beat Polokwane City in Durban on Saturday.
Amakhosi have been ordered to play their next three domestic fixtures (one of them suspended for 24 months if they are not found guilty of the same offence in that period) in KwaZulu-Natal behind closed doors as punishment for crowd violence at the Moses Mabhida during their Nedbank Cup semi-final defeat to Free State Stars in April.
“Football is beautiful when you have supporters inside the stadium, they create an ambience and an atmosphere. Without them there, it’s a funeral,” Solinas said.
Both Chiefs and the Moses Mabhida Stadium management stand to lose out on the revenue from their existing partnership – having the Glamour Boys play their “home” matches some 600 kilometres away from their first-choice venue, the FNB Stadium.
Six months ago, however, several Amakhosi supporters invaded the pitch, damaged expensive camera equipment and assaulted security personnel. This kind of sentence, perhaps a bit of a slap on the wrist given the mayhem caused, was a no-brainer.
Solinas revealed that the penalty by the Premier Soccer League is not unusual for him, but he did not elaborate on when exactly he had to guide a team to victory without their spectators there to cheer them on.
“Yes, I have been involved in a game behind closed doors before. We are going to need a special kind of preparation for this match, a special mentality,” the coach explained.
“Because the atmosphere, without the supporters, is not real. It will be a strange atmosphere. So this means we have to prepare psychologically also for this situation. It’s a pity because the game, football, is a spectacle. It is good when the supporters are there, it makes the task easier. When they celebrate, then you feel that it is a football game.”
Chiefs’ bitter rivals Orlando Pirates were also forced to play one of their home matches behind closed doors in Soweto last season after a similar charge.
But that their fans were absent did not distract them from the task at hand as they tore into the then reigning Absa Premiership champions Bidvest Wits with an emphatic 4-0 drubbing en route to finishing in second place behind new title holders Mamelodi Sundowns.
Amakhosi fans that had already bought tickets to the league clash against City will be reimbursed according to a statement from the club on Monday, but the match will still be live on television this Saturday at 6pm. – Mazola Molefe