The word BEEF is a noun that is used to describe the flesh of a cow, bull, or ox, used as food. But in colloquial terms, the word may also be used to describe complaint, grievance or a grudge.
Do you remember that senseless hip hop “beef” between the East and West Coast from the mid-90’s? I call it senseless because, not only did the world lose some of the most gifted Rhythm-And-Poetry artists of our time, but hip hop lost a once in a life time opportunity to unleash something so big and historic, it could never be ignored. Just think about it. If Eazy-E, Suge Knights, Sean Combs and their gun wilding henchmen did not go on rampage and actually worked together, they could have built something extraordinary, even bigger than Motown Records or Sony Music.
I know it sounds a bit “holier than though.” But let’s be honest, the beef was stupid. Can you imagine Hugh Masekela saying he will not work with Abdula Ebrahim, just because he was from Cape Town? STUPID!
The circumstance around the establishment of Kaizer Chiefs FC lends itself to the existence of beef between them and Orlado Pirates. Kaizer Chiefs were founded on 7 January 1970 shortly after the return of Kaizer Motaung, a former Orlando Pirates player, from the US where he played for the Atlanta Chiefs. The club was established on the back of several player who had broken away from Orlando Pirates to join Kaizer Chiefs. This is not much different to the circumstances that informed the establishment of Inter Milan as a break-away club from AC Milan. In 1908, issues over the signing of foreign players in AC Milan led to a split and the founding of F.C. Internazionale Milano.
The construction of the Manchester Ship Canal which was completed in 1894, produced inter-city economic resentment which manifested in working class Liverpool Dockers and labourers in Manchester. That is the real beef that under pinned the rivalry between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC.
The El Classico rivalry came about not only because Madrid and Barcelona are the two largest cities in Spain, but also because they are identified with opposing political positions. Real Madrid viewed as representing Spanish nationalism and Barcelona viewed as representing Catalan nationalism. The real beef behind this fixture has more to do with political identity and a myriad of other historic events which have gone on to shape the tensions that brew behind one of the greatest spectacle in world football to date.
What does this tell us?
If you go and look at history you will find that behind all great fixtures in the world, derbies or otherwise, there has to be beef to make it great. There must be a bone of contention that goes way beyond football. Further to that, there has to be a moment when this beef undergoes a metamorphosis to become a rivalry which serves to enhance the stature of the event itself.
I am not sure when that moment in history was for the Soweto derby. Maybe it was that day when Kaizer Motaung went to the then Johannesburg International Airport to meet Orlando Pirates after they conquered Africa in the Champions’ League. Where Orlando Pirates officials made him wear one of the first blazers with a star on its emblem. He took out a white handkerchief and wiped his tears as he wept with joy and Dr Irvan Khoza put his arm over his shoulder and said, “Once a Pirate, always a Pirate.”
Maybe it could be that moment when Putco Mafani took the microphone and asked thousands of fans, Chiefs, Pirates and millions at home; to bow our heads and pray for the 43 supporters who had just lost their lives in the Ellis Park Stadium disaster.
We might never know when that moment was, but what we do know is that at that moment the beef transformed into a rivalry that made the Soweto derby into the biggest event on the African sports calendar. When it became one of the most fiercely contested matches in African football, and believe it or not, selling more tickets than the Manchester or Milan derby on a return fixture.
The reason that we are none the wiser is that in life, even when we live through great moments in history, the human mind is hardly capable of absorbing the moment while taking the time to prognosticate what that moment will mean in years to come. Perhaps it is capable, only it is us who do not allow it. We do not allow it because, admitting that a specific moment serves to punctuate a change in the course of history, means we might need to bestow greatness on an individual whom we may deem less than us.
Less than two weeks ago, a certain young man from Mafikeng presented South Africa with such a moment. He spoke of it like a vision with a trimester to go infidels mocked him. And as the dream came to bear and Cassper Nyovest #FilledUpTheDome, I can only hope that those of us who lived through it will bear testament in years to come; of that moment in history when beef became rivalry. Just imagine what other people need to do just to outshine that? You see when people tweet “I am now inspired to fill up a stadiums.” Right there is evidence of a mind-set changed forever. And that can only serve for the greater good of not only Casper Nyovets and SA hip hop, but society as a whole.
I hope that as we live through this exciting time in our country’s history, we will not be oblivious of that moment. But celebrate it for the being a period in which beef became rivalry, the slangwhanger were proved wrong while the media industry was never to be the same again. For the greater good of our society, off course.
The tempest prognosticator
Themba A Dikgale