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Cabbage and roasted pig

Orlando Pirates fans show off their accessories at the recent Soweto derby
There were some remarkable items on display at the recent Soweto derby when it went back home to Orlando Stadium

By Piers Edwards,
BBC Fast Track, Soweto

Although next year's World Cup will undoubtedly capture the spirit of South Africa's colourful football, certain elements will be missing.

Fifa policy is likely to ban local fans from bringing in some of their kaleidoscopic array of paraphernalia.

Vuvuzelas and 'makarapas' (the redesigned miners' hats) will certainly be on show.

But some of the more exotic items may not make it past security.

I recently went to the famous Soweto derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, which was returning home for the first time in 20 years on Saturday.

As well as a packed house of close to 40 thousand people, the Orlando Stadium also hosted items unlikely to make it through World Cup turnstiles - namely, an assortment of cabbages and the severed head of a roasted pig.

I came across the latter late in the game, by which time the fingers of the middle-aged Pirates fan carefully holding it were covered in grease.

"Pirates want to roast Chiefs, which is why they have this head," his neighbour explained.

Fans at the Soweto derby
The Soweto derby attracts the most passionate fans in South Africa

"After they beat Chiefs, they say they are going to eat this."

If this seemed tenuous, so did the thinking of those clutching cabbages like crystal balls.

"I believe in cabbage as a traditional medicine, because I know Pirates will not lose when I have the cabbage," Isaac Mthembu, 33, told the BBC's African sports programme Fast Track.

"I take a cabbage to every match, to use as muti [witchcraft], and standing behind the goal I can stop goals."

Since both sets of fans were displaying cabbages, maybe it was no coincidence that the match ended in a drab goalless draw.

Yet the match will forever be remembered as the day one of the world's most famous derbies came home.

Founded in Orlando in 1937, Pirates' earliest players were only fielded as long as they or their parents had been born in the Soweto district.

Although their great rivals did not appear until 1970, Chiefs - who also arose from the famous township - soon became South Africa's most popular club.

And throughout the 70s and 80s, Orlando Stadium's rickety stands were full-to-bursting as its dustbowl surface staged the intense derby.

But as the venue fell into disrepair, the match eventually left town for nearby Johannesburg.

Now though, the World Cup's arrival has turned Orlando Stadium into a fine 40,000 all-seater venue that will host training sessions next June.

And to the fans' delight, it indicates how South Africa 2010 is already leaving a legacy.

"It means a lot to see the derby here as soccer's coming to the people and we've been disadvantaged for a long time," Chiefs fan More, 25, told the BBC.

"Seeing the derby in Soweto marks a historic moment for me - and I am so delighted," agrees Winston, a 29-year-old Pirates follower.

"Orlando Stadium is the most suitable venue because it's close to the people and fans can walk without the need to use transport money."

Despite the fans' delight, it was not nostalgia which brought the game back to Soweto.

Abel Shongwe
Abel Shongwe says football has changed since he played in the derby

The game was originally booked for the Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, which can host 11,000 more fans, but a double-booking forced a switch.

Abel Shongwe, who made his name with Chiefs in the 1980s, says such an attitude is typical of today's football.

"This game was not to the high expectation of a derby, which should be something else," the ex-striker, 43, told BBC Fast Track.

"When we played here, we did so out of love for the game but today's players just do it for money so they're not playing exciting football.

"We used to entertain our supporters and even if we lost, the fans normally felt it was worth the money to have travelled to watch."

It's hard to believe those who left Cape Town, Durban or Swaziland would say the same for this derby, but its magnetism will surely lure them back - with or without the pig's head.



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see also
Kaizer chiefs return home
09 Aug 09 |  African
Chiefs and Pirates share spoils
24 Nov 07 |  African
World Cup watch
02 Nov 09 |  African


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