One of the fast growing soccer leagues in the world is the South African PSL (Premier Soccer League). Thanks to lucrative television broadcasting rights deals, and being televised throughout the continent of Africa, the league has grown in the past five years from hardly being in the top fifty richest leagues in the world, to breaking into the top ten.
But for many, the PSL, and most African leagues for that matter, is a mystery, with the most people from the other continents unaware of their rich history and passionate supporters
With South Africa having hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the world got its first taste of African supporters, but in truth it was just a taster. Many of those who attended were not necessarily real fans of the local game, but rather South Africans who wanted to experience the event. Though many real South African supporters did attend, the price of tickets and the difficult purchasing process meant the large majority of real fans were watching on TV.
Each club in South Africa has its own unique fans, and contrary to popular belief, until recently the infamous vuvuzela had very little to do with football supporters in the country. It was only in the 1990’s that it emerged at a few games, though thanks to 2010, it is now deeply entrenched in the local culture, if not the world’s
The PSL is a sixteen-club league, with the oldest club currently competing in it, Orlando Pirates, having been founded in 1937. The game itself has a history in South Africa that dates back to the 1860’s but because of the apartheid system, for over a hundred years leagues were segregated, and it was only in 1974 that soccer players of all races competed in the same club competition, though not necessarily in the same teams. But within ten years teams were integrated as well.
The most popular and successful club in the country, Kaizer Chiefs, was only formed in 1970, by former Orlando Pirates star Kaizer Motaung. Motaung, who had left the club a few years back to compete in the North American Soccer League, returned to South Africa in 1969 and assembled a team of All-Stars, which included many other former Orlando Pirates players, who played friendlies a cross the country.
Soon they became a club and today they have an estimated 20 million fans just in South Africa, and millions more throughout Africa. Perhaps due to this connection, the Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs derby is one of the world’s most anticipated grudge matches. Crowds of up to one hundred thousand (the capacity of South Africa’s biggest stadium, Soccer City, where the World Cup Final was hosted) flock to watch these two local Soweto giants in action. Though the real Soweto derby should perhaps be between Orlando Pirates and the second oldest club in the PSL, Moroka Swallows, which was founded in 1947, ten years after Pirates.
Of course for many around the world, when they hear the name they think of the British band, Kaiser Chiefs The band chose that name because of Lucas Radebe, a former Kaizer Chiefs player, who went on to captain the band’s favorite club in England, Leeds United. It is believed that Radebe suggested they change the spelling of the first word so they wouldn’t have any copyright issues.