Look in the mirror for answer to soccer kick in the head

Crowd violence during the Nedbank Cup Semi Final match between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars at Moses Mabhida Stadium on April 21, 2018 in Durban, South Africa.
Crowd violence during the Nedbank Cup Semi Final match between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars at Moses Mabhida Stadium on April 21, 2018 in Durban, South Africa.
Image: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

Violence must serve a purpose. Why be violent if it isn’t doing something for us? Violence occurs because we have a use for it

SABELO Maziba (remember that name).

You’ve had a tough week, so you don your favourite team’s colourful shirt, hire a taxi (no drinking and driving) and, with your mates, you head off to the stadium for the big game.

On arrival, you have your ticket and bag checked by security at the gate and then you head for your spot in the stands.

You shout yourself hoarse, you drink a few beers to quench the thirst and then, when the final whistle blows, you invade the pitch, overturn and trash the television cameras with plastic chair held aloft, as you watch the taxi driver from before kick the prone security guard (who checked your bag) in the head.

On April 21, Kaizer Chiefs played Free State Stars at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in eThekwini in the semifinal of the Nedbank Cup (South Africa’s version of the FA Cup) where underdogs from the lesser leagues have an outside chance of beating the big boys.

On this day Free State Stars beat the Amakhosi two goals to nothing and ruined their chance of silverware.

The fans go ballistic.

They invade the pitch, set chairs alight, throw advertising boards, chase the players and match officials, fight with each other and attack the security guards with anything they can throw.

One security guard, Sabelo Maziba, a 32-year-old father of one from KwaMashu, finds himself isolated on the field, knocked down by raining plastic chairs.

He begins to crawl away, but he is felled (unconscious) by a deliberate kick to the head.

The perpetrator, a taxi driver, was subsequently arrested, appeared in court and was then released on R1000 bail with two others.

The offence is alleged, so let’s call him Citizen X.

Why would Citizen X kick a crawling Sabelo Maziba in the head?

The video footage is clear.

It’s not an accident. It’s a deliberate act of malevolence directed at a person who is in no shape or form a threat to your own wellbeing.

We must assume that, on the face of it, Citizen X didn’t arrive at the stadium two or more hours earlier with the intention of kicking Sabelo in the head.

So what changed?

The sister of a different soccer hooligan arrested at the same match claims the behaviour of her brother is unlike him; that he is actually an Orlando Pirates supporter (Chiefs’ big hometown rivals), and so perhaps he got swept up with others because he was drunk.

Was Citizen X drunk? Was he swayed by the crowd to become something other than himself?

The chairman of the Premier Soccer League (PSL), Irvin Khoza, blames it on the South African Police Service. Apparently they never pitched for pre-match meetings and on the day they seemed incredibly slow to respond.

The SAPS have launched a full-scale investigation.

The Kaizer Chief’s coach, Steve Komphela, who has been under pressure for poor results, resigned with immediate effect after the game.

The Amakhosi have won the Nedbank Cup 13 times, and been runner-up five times since its inception in 1971 but last saw the final in 2013.

They currently hold third spot in the country’s top league – the Absa Premiership (with 16 teams contesting) – after playing 29 games and taking 11 wins. Top of the league is Sundowns, with 18 wins.

Clearly the fans’ measure of success is uncompromising: you must win!

But were the results that poor that it justifies beating Sabelo with chairs and kicking him in the head?

It’s not the Chiefs first brush with stadium violence this year.

On April 7 in a 0-3 loss against Chippa United, they were fined R50,000 (with a further R200,000 suspended) by the PSL for violence that happened at their home ground – the FNB Stadium in Soweto.

In 2001, 43 people were killed in their derby against Pirates at Ellis Park when part of the crowd stampeded, and similarly in 1991 – also with the same two teams playing in Orkney – 42 people were killed.

The Commission of Inquiry into the 2001 disaster recommended, among other things, that pitch invasions are made a criminal offence, that security be better trained and that the PSL educate soccer supporters in better spectator protocol.

Has the PSL learnt the lessons and done the necessary?

Is it too lenient on clubs, afraid that stricter action will even further reduce the declining attendance of PSL matches?

Football (soccer) hooliganism is the dark side of the sport.

The United Kingdom arrested 1638 people in 2017 for hooliganism, and 1929 people are serving a football ban for – in the main – three types of offences: public disorder, alcohol-related offences, and violent disorder.

Russia has seen an escalation of neo-Nazi groups organising on the fringes of games; Brazil saw 29 deaths arise from football in 2012 alone; Italy, Turkey and France all have their share.

Perhaps the sport is the problem?

Violence itself must serve a purpose. Why be violent if it isn’t doing something for us? Be it the burning of tyres, schools or trucks on a highway; be it the 19000 murders a year; the violence against women and children; the torture of our pets. Violence occurs because we have a use for it.

All of the above tick a part of the box, but do they stare the beast in the eye?

Ultimately, Citizen X kicked Sabelo Maziba in the head because in that moment the helpless security guard was not a father looking to support his child – in that moment he was seen as non-human.

Different psychologists call it different things – the Lucifer effect, splitting, distancing, disassociation or dehumanisation. But at the core is the same basic mechanism.

To defend against our own brokenness, our own trauma, we see others as something different from us, something different from those we hold dear and so we go on the hunt – we attack, we use violence to show our imagined power over those inner demons. We hurt to avoid our own pain.

Citizen X is not unique, but is he himself human?

To know that answer, we have to look in the mirror.

We could blame the SAPS, the PSL, the coach or the Chiefs’ fans.

We could blame alcohol, upbringing, economic status or intelligence. We could blame the weather.

But externalising responsibility does Sabelo Maziba a disservice.

In a year, he will be forgotten and another name will have taken his place.

Unless we look into the mirror and give Citizen X our name and begin to deal with our own brokenness.