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Orlando Pirates Kaizer Chiefs

Derby Day

by Norbert Herrmann / 28.11.2010

We are on the M1 heading for Soccer City two hours before kickoff. A Mercedes overtakes us with a Kaizer Chiefs flag flapping on the back. “That’s the sign of one of the teams,” I tell the kid, and point at the yellow-black flag that looks like the head of a pharaoh. Her ten year old eyes glance and she nods.

Around the stadium we soon see the flags of the opposing team – Orlando Pirates. “Which team are you supporting?” The kid asks me out of the blue. We’re in our seats by now. Both teams are out on the green stuff warming up for the premiership derby. She doesn’t notice my answer as superstar Siphiwe Tshabalala enters the pitch. Ear piercing whistles erupt. And the girl beside me blows her vuvuzela. “They’re dressed in yellow,” she beams, “just like my vuvuzela! It’s my favorite colour!”
A nervous pair of Orlando Pirates fans nearby are adrift in a sea of yellow. Forgotten as the game gets interesting. The girl screams when everyone else does. Imitating everyone. Does she know what’s going on down on the pitch? Does she get that it’s an own goal! The rarest and most comical of all things in soccer. One nil for Amakhosi.

The Pirates fans close by snap their fingers: “Just wait!” Despite being outnumbered, they’re bravely giving as good as they get from the crowd. The girl becomes absorbed by them. Standing on her seat and turning her back on the action. I tell her not to stare.

We’re sitting directly in the cruel sunshine but the kid won’t keep her cap on. Probably since its dark blue and close to the color of Pirates jerseys. She chooses the yellow ice from a vendor and it melts in our hands.

The crowd boos a penalty. I lift the kid high on my shoulders to see the shot. The ball hits the back of the net. She blows the vuvuzela with all her heart. Chiefs fans go mad in the stadium, jump in perfect unison. The whole arena shakes. She’s jumping along with them. Loving it.

A Chief fan innovates a new dance on the spot. He shouts: “One, two, none!” He crosses his arms in an X then makes victory signs with his fingers. “The crossed arms means Pirates suck,” I explain to her. “The victory sign is for Kaizer Chiefs!” She seems to think about that. Then smiles.

The heat is having an effect down below. Miscommunication between the goalie and a defender means its now three nil. Yellow celebration. A Chiefs asks, “Which team are you supporting?” I shrug. Not wanting to get into it. “He’s a Pirate!” The little betrayer. “I’m Chiefs like you.” The fan gives her a thumbs-up and clicks, “Pirates! No man.”

The marooned Pirates fans have given up even with 10 minutes left to play. They make their way out through the jeers. With the sun finally sunk behind the opposite stand, we’re granted a merciful shadow. It was the best moment of the whole game.

She can’t sit still on the drive home. “When’s the next Chiefs game?” She’s become a rabid Chiefs fan. And it was all because the first flag she saw was yellow. It’s still about colour these days, just different.

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