The eleventh chapter in the book of Hebrews describes Faith as the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
This is somewhat different to Religion; for religion is a collection of belief systems and world views that relate humanity to particular values. The practice of a religion is largely personified in ceremonies and rituals, which when performed; they serve to remind us of specific values which resonate with the behavioral system fostered by the religion itself.
Okay, that sounds like claptrap. To tone it down, let us do so by way of the following examples.
Muslims are taught to wash their bodies before reading the Qur’an. This ritual is derived from the Islamic belief that – cleanliness is half of faith. When they perform this practice, Muslims are reminded of the idea that when one presents himself to GOD he needs not only be physically clean, but of be clean conscience as well. Now, if you consider that Islam requires a Muslim to read the Qur’an five times a day, the idea of treating others in a way that allows them to be of clean conscience is fundamental to the Muslim’s belief system and is embodied in the daily ritual of wudu.
Christians break bread and take a sip of wine in a ritual of Holy Communion to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ. They observe the body and blood of Christ which was sacrificed for the forgiveness of their sins. In this ceremony, values relating forgiveness and self-sacrifice for the good of others are embodied in order to forester a behavioral system engendered within Christian outlook.
So what does this have to do with football?
Well, the process of creating rituals, ceremonies and commemorations of previous people and events is the key to relating any group of people to particular set of values which cultivate a desired behavioral system.
This weekend marked the 14th anniversary of The Ellis Park Stadium disaster. This was the worst sporting incident in South African history. On 11 April 2001, spectators poured into the Ellis Park Stadium for the local Soweto derby. There was already a 60,000 capacity crowd in the stadium, but reports suggest a further 30,000 fans were still trying to gain entry into the stadium. Reports also suggest that 120,000 fans were admitted into the stadium. An Orlando Pirates equalizer sparked a further surge by the fans trying to gain entry as they scrambled to see what had happened. As the crowd surged to gain seats and see the pitch, the stampede pressed forward, an act which left 43 people dead.
In my mind, choosing to forget that the Ellis Park disaster ever happened was the biggest mistake, a faux pas of cataclysmic proportions in our post-1994 football history. For it is truly an opportunity missed by South African football fraternity.
If ceremonies were established to commemorate this tragic event, a defined set of values regarding spectator conduct, spectator appreciation for sportsmanship etc could be embodied to engender the desired behavioral system within the fandom psyche of our nation.
It was just the opportunity for football to help a society caught up in the rat race of day-to -day living to remember the collective spirit of caring for your fellow man. This spirit having been heroically displayed as football supporters from opposing teams, protected and supported each other as they tried to get to a place of safety. As they gave mouth-to-mouth to perfect strangers in an effort to resuscitate their lifeless bodies lying on the field. The “good-Samaritan” values which quite frankly have disappeared from our society.
An annual commemoration of the Ellis Park disaster would have been the start of a new ritual, from which the indispensable values of exemplary leadership could be fostered and engendered by an organisation in a lighthouse industry which captures the imagination of an entire nation daily. It would be just the type of act that is correctly pitched at not only reminding us of the loss of the 43 people who were crushed to death, but all the things that this tragic event taught us as a society.
Just like Christians and Muslims the Ellis Park disaster was an opportunity to establish a ritual that embodies values that our society cannot do without. But sadly this is an occasion we have allowed ourselves to forego.
Just a thought!
The tempest prognosticator;
Themba A Dikgale.