Why supporters don’t bother to attend Kaizer Chiefs’ home matches?

Kaizer Chiefs players form a guard of honour for veteran goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune during their DStv Premiership game against Polokwane City. Photo: Kaizer Chiefs on X

Kaizer Chiefs players form a guard of honour for veteran goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune during their DStv Premiership game against Polokwane City. Photo: Kaizer Chiefs on X

Published May 26, 2024


Real Madrid and Barcelona are the biggest football clubs in Spain. In England, despite a difficult season, Manchester United still sit at the top of the tree as the most supported team. And Bayern Munich are the kings of Germany.

If you go across the Atlantic Ocean, clubs like Boca Juniors, River Plate and Flamengo are some of the biggest in South America.

On the African continent, Egypt’s Al Ahly and Esperance from Tunisia can count themselves among the biggest in their countries.

What do these clubs have in common? Week in, week out, supporters flock to their home grounds to watch them play. Come rain or shine, their fans will back them no matter what, it’s sold out spectacles every weekend.

One of the things Manchester United received a lot of praise for during the last season was their support, both home and away, for their struggling team and manager. Wherever they went, they could call on a huge legion of fans to get behind the team in times of difficulty.

In South African football, it is widely accepted that rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are the biggest, and two most supported teams in the country. When they face each other in the Soweto derby, the country comes to a near standstill. It is the biggest event on the PSL calendar, and its best attended game.

But when it comes to Chiefs, their home fans are nowhere to be seen when the opposition are not Pirates. If you told someone not familiar with South African football that Kaizer Chiefs were the best supported club in the country, they’d struggle to believe you.

Last weekend, the mighty Kaizer Chiefs were left with egg on their faces when a few fans pitched up when they were honouring veteran goalkeeper and club legend Itumeleng Khune for 25 years of service.

And other games at the 90 000-seater FNB Stadium during the season have been the same. Rows and rows of empty orange seats are broadcast all over the continent in what surely can’t be a good advert for South African football.

We’ll never know how many people attend games as neither the PSL nor the clubs make attendance figures public, unless the game is a full house.

Orlando Pirates, on the other hand, have often drawn bigger crowds to their home games at the iconic Orlando Stadium. The Ghost have backed their team through thick and thin this season, and it’s something they can be proud of.

Even Mamelodi Sundowns, who don’t have as many fans as the Soweto clubs, can call on their vociferous supporters when playing at Loftus Versfeld or the Lucas Moripe Stadium.

Regardless of the lack of support at home, Chiefs are still the biggest club in South Africa. Their fans often outnumber the opposition’s whenever they’re on the road, and some games at smaller stadiums have had to be moved to accommodate them. But it’s not a good look when games played in their own backyard remind us of being back in Covid-19 lockdown.

Three years ago, Kaizer Chiefs fans hilariously marched to Naturena and handed the club’s hierarchy a memorandum demanding change after a poor run of results.

Club bosses, siblings Jessica, Kemiso and Kaizer Motaung Jr accepted the memorandum, but went on to turn the entire protest into a PR opportunity and posed for photos with the angry fans.

The fans don’t show up for the club. The fans don’t even bother to show up to honour their legends, so why should the club listen to them?

If the club played in front of capacity crowds for all of their home games, perhaps the fans could have a bigger voice, and their concerns taken seriously. Until then, they have no right to moan and protest when the club go through a dip in form.

• Lunga Biyela is a digital journalist with IOL Sport.

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of IOL or Independent Media.