Manqoba Nxumalo
Manqoba Nxumalo

The loyalty we have to soccer teams is the same as we have to the ANC

In the past few days I have been asking myself why I get peeved each time I discuss the performance of my dearest club with my fellow Manchester United supporters. Oftentimes I find myself wondering why everyone does not see that David Moyes is technically inept, a minnow and completely out of sync as manager of the club. Those who claim to be hardened Manchester United fans never stop reminding me that when Ferguson took over in 1986 he was one game away from being booted out but patience saw him become the greatest English club manager in history. Of course this is a false assertion meant to assuage all of us frustrated with Moyes’s clear lack of vision and technical ineptitude.

I always remind the blind Manchester United fans that Ferguson took a middle table club and made it a champion team. What is Moyes doing? Taking a champion club and making it a mid-table team. Yes, it is too early to judge him but his few games in charge have shown all the hallmarks of a team taking over the position that Liverpool has been occupying in the last 15 years.

In refusing the argument about giving Moyes time I always posit that the stakes are now different to what they were 27 years ago, the game has become more competitive and demanding. A Liverpool friend of mine cautioned that I must show my loyalty to the team and not criticise it as I often do on Twitter. He says when supporting teams, loyalty is important. Now therein lies the rub.

I am clearly frustrated with Moyes. I do not like him because I think he is a shrimp for a club as huge as Manchester United, he is making my favourite team a mini-Everton, he makes disparaging comments and most of all did not buy players during the transfer window, only to bitch about the lack of depth in the squad a few months later.

With all these frustrations, why am I not leaving Manchester United to support perhaps Arsenal? What keeps me enchanted with the team despite my sheer unhappiness? I have been asking myself these questions because I could easily support another club and only come back once the team is doing better. But I don’t. I figured out it’s this thing called loyalty. Yes I can be frustrated with my team’s abject performance but save for a few rants on Twitter, I never contemplate leaving it. I’d rather be a silent supporter and pretend I don’t care than announce my divorce with the club.

Which leads me to the next question. Are the feelings I have for Manchester United what most unhappy ANC members have for the ruling party? Does this explain why people will complain and criticise the ANC in private, and of late in public, but still vote for it next year? Is loyalty the single reason why we find ourselves stuck in situations where we are clearly unhappy but are afraid of letting go, because of the fear of an uncertain future?

I argue that if you are a football fan and frustrated with your team yet cannot leave it then you understand why people will still vote for the ANC despite the e-tolls, Guptagate, Nkandla and so forth. The ANC’s allure is even more powerful than a mere attachment to a soccer team because at least they can point, in material terms, to how they have transformed South Africa. If people cannot stop supporting teams that they have no material connection to save for emotional abuse – yes, the relationship we have with soccer teams is abusive – then understand that no amount of “e-tolls proudly brought to you by ANC” or any of the disparaging comments on Twitter can make people change their vote, at least for now.

You see, the relationship people have with the ANC is a complicated one. It’s based on a romantic past, emotional abuse, occasional pampering with sweets but in the main disappointment with unfulfilled promises. That is why people like Mathews Phosa will criticise the same party he once led about its tolerance for corruption yet still champion it as the best thing since sliced bread for South Africa. Why? Because loyalty binds him to the ANC and nostalgia for the heroic struggle keeps him in captive.

That is why the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Julius Malema is wrong to think he will have people follow him on the basis of likening the ANC to apartheid.

For any political party that wants to contest the ANC they must acknowledge the party for its role in the past and the many great things it has done for South Africa and then say that despite this, for the present challenges, a new party must take over. Well, something along those lines. All manner of pontifical and disparaging hooey will not make people change their loyalty to the ruling party, at least in the present, because we all suffer from the same sickness that Mamelodi Sundowns, Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs fans have. This sickness is hard to cure. Just ask the Liverpool supporters.

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    • michael

      The difference between emotion and rationality is the difference between chaos and order.

    • Chris Smitty

      Its really sad to see blind loyalty to a political party, especially the ANC. If you want to compare it to football, how about this…. a coach is only as good as his last game, no one cares that he led his team to victory the previous season. If management feels the coach is no longer getting the best out of his team, he is out!

      Why have loyalty to a party who is running the country into the ground, engages in blatant corruption, obvious mismanagement and overall incompetence? Who cares what the ANC did 20 or 30 years ago. Remember their sacrifices, honor their actions, but be a free thinker. Can you honestly say the ANC is governing the country to the best of their ability? No? Then give someone else a chance, and lets move this country forward. We can be so much more!

    • Ntombenhle

      I would’ve been inclined to agree with your comparison of football loyalty and ANC party loyalty had you stuck to speaking of members of the ANC. The majority of people that vote for the ANC are not members of the ANC and are not interested in being members. The majority that vote the ANC, vote for it because they see it as the only viable vehicle towards living the life they dream of. It is certainly not about loyalty to the ANC. People are past that stage. Should another party emerge that shows people that it can help them live better lives and do this in a practical way, people would vote for that party. A better life includes taking into consideration that the conditions do not revert to what they were during apartheid. You correctly say that voting for a party is based on the perceived impact the party will have on the material conditions of the person/s voting, that being the case, the only loyalty there is, is to oneself.

    • PrettyBelinda

      Be not disheartened, yes i know Manunited made a terrible mistake, Ozil should have gone to the reds but the gunners held him ransom. Good thing about soccer though, managers and players sign high performance contracts and if they don’t step up to the plate and deliver they can be fired. And even if there is a slump in the camp for a year or two, they rise again. We can’t say the same for political parties. How many times have they gone against the will hearts and minds of the people on the back of the vote….this is abuse of an extreme nature….the romance is warped and twisted…still we peddle and trudge along with this enstranged relationship, hoping for the best…its madness……disaster on the heels of disaster, one rumor after another, and it feels like nobody has a clue what’s going on. People clamouring ater one political prophet then another. Leaders are i despair and the common people are paralyzed, gripped by fear of the new in a love/hate relationship with thebold grand movement.

    • Haiwa Tigere

      Well said.Being an Arse-nal supporter the last eight years have not been easy but in Wenger we trust. In ANC we trust too. Same can be said about relationshipstoo. You stay in it for the familiarity(and how much they will fleece you for if you split) when all the love is gone.

    • Sicelo

      I have been a fan of Orlando Pirates since 1971 and have cried and laughed heartily through the years watching the team perform well or badly from one season to the next. I could so easily do so, as I do now, because the Buccaneers have little meaningful bearing in my daily life, except as an excuse to taunt my neigbhour whenever we (EzikamaGebhula) whip the smug off Kaizer Chiefs’s face while drinking ourselves nuts that afternoon evening.
      You see, all of it – the support for Orlando Pirates and all – is a pasttime and nothing more. I mean, I can kick a ball and score goals myself if I want to and my neigbhour could kill himself laughing just as happily, without dire consequence.
      As it is, my life partner used to support Jomo Cosmos and now supports no team and it has had absolutely no bearing on her life or ours.
      The ANC (as government) on the other hand impacts my life every single day in every which way… the street lights, the roads, traffic regulation, the public library, the school down the road, the amount of VAT on my bread, the number of fishing boats in the harbor and the quality of fish they bring onto my table, the medicine on the shelves at the supermarket, anything and everything, including fulfillment of my dreams and that of my children and community.
      Manchester City or Orlando Pirates compare nothing to that.
      An illustrious history, which I am responsible for, counts for nothing when the promised future increasingly disappears right before my eyes.

    • John S

      Loyalty is fair enough but with it pride is required. Any human being must retain pride. That you cannot develop when your side steals, lies, practices corruption as a daily practice! I have pride – kick in the butt is all they would get from me!

    • At Peace

      Great post, the blind loyalty is even worse in the USA where more than 90% of the voters always vote for their chosen party regardless of the candidate or policies.

    • Mr. Direct


      Perhaps you are right, although the implications are so different.

      As Manchester United supporters avoid their Manchester City and Liverpool supporter friends, it cannot be ANC Supporters are happy with the bad publicity, the weak excuses, the veil of secrecy, the stench of corruption.

      None of these results attract support. Surely not.

      Too many losses and draws will result in the end for Moyes as manager at Manchester United. What will it take to spell the end for Mr. Zuma as President?

    • Graham

      Ah, Sicelo, well said. My thoughts exactly.

      Manqoba, I think you would feel very different if you were funding Moye’s salary.

    • Skerminkel

      What @Sicelo said.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Now if only we can get ‘Team South Africa’ or ‘Team Tomorrow’.
      A huge part of the problem is the sorry showing of ‘Team Opposition’. Maybe if they played better, they would have more people wearing their shirts in the stands. I will always have a soft spot for ‘Team ANC’ but until they change the coach, stop scoring own goals and off sides ….. well, I’ll have to be one of those shirtless spectators who simply bets on the team that promises better game play.

    • http://google Musawenkosi

      I am astounded by your comparison of football and politics. In my view they are incomparable. I voted for the ANC in 1994 not because of my membership or loyalty to them, but because of the old Mandela and his forgiving spirit. That came and gone. then corruption started and Zille came along and brought a lot fresh impressions in politics, the Public Protector also came along and brought hope even though Zuma hates her with all his guts. Here we are, we have a president of the country with a cloud hanging over him and manipulating the state resources to avoid his day in court. Dream on those who have blind loyalty, dream on those who are waiting for the governing party to come and hand out cabbages and carrots in the name of a caring government

    • Freddie de Lange

      I know your article leans towards a political article, but the whole idea about loyalty to a sports team made me think of loyalty to other stuff…

      I have been loyal to VodaCom for more than ten years. The last 6 months I had appalling service. So I cancelled my contract. But it took me 3 months to get to the point of actually deciding to cancel it, and another 2 months to send my first request to cancel it… Strange loyalty!

      I have been a customer of ABSA for my whole life. But they are so expensive. Yet, it took me more that 2 years to get to the point of opening an account at Capitec… And I still have my ABSA account… Strange loyalty…

      Since I started to watch and follow South African football, I supported Kaizer Chiefs. I started supporting them while the were still floating between 3rd and 4th on the log, about 4 years ago. And I didn’t start to support another team (since, as a new football supporter, it wouldn’t have been to strange). But I stuck with Amakhosi, even though I didn’t support them for that long at that stage… So that is how quickly a loyalty grows…

    • Eddie

      This has got to be the most useless article I have read on Thought leader in a while, I am surprised it got published! It lacks depth, any form of constructive analysis or construct.
      I agree with Ntombenhle, Scelo and Musawenkhosi!
      you should’ve just stuck to ranting about ManU, I too feel pain because I am a ManU die-hard.

    • PrettyBelinda

      Nice one @Freddie…..the lingering loyalty before making that change…..

    • Graham

      One other difference: If Man United lose a game, your life is not affected. At all.

    • http://None KideoN

      Is it correct to ve football fans who are just mere followers and dont ve a say to a particular team they are supporting? Is it correct to have good Anaylist who are just mere Analysis without participating in the structures they are giving Analysis…

      There is no sense in article and lacks good analysis because the writer seems not to be palying any role in the two. First thing first one must be simple to the writer and one must simply indicate that i ve a sense that you seems to ve never participated in the two comparison you are giving us. In football, you cannot be a good player if you not interested in playing. One must say a football team is not a team because of management, it because of the fans. hence is most cases you realise a Coach being fired by the Fans not Managagment.

      In relating that to politics, You cant be a good Politician you are not participating in Politics. a Political Party is not a Political Party bcs of its Leadership, it is based on its membership and therefore the membership has the right to taken decision if the Leadership is failing.

      Maybe one must request the wirter to go back and come up with a better Analysis or Research
      1. Dont give us Analysis on what you are or have neva being part of.
      2. Dont give us a Research on something and at the same time it cant relate to your career.

      I ve been observing as a NO ACADEMIC South Afrcian that ve so many Analyst in SA givin us a good Analysis yet they are sitting somewhere…

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    • FhatuwaniKing

      The difference is that if you are a Soccer fan you dont fund the salary of players and the coach. As a fan you can start by betting for the loosing Team week in and week out and see if you’ll be loyal the whole year with your money