The following story was sent to me following the supposed ‘Greatest Rivalry in University Rugby’ between Maties and Ikeys – quite frankly, it’s disgusting.
Ikeys vs Maties
(12 March 2012)
It comes around once every 2 years. So in the midst of test week, coupled with a poor performance, I was one of the few who opted to make the trek to our neighbours for the greatest rivalry currently in the Varsity Cup. Coming from a small school with no rival culture I couldn’t wait to experience what all the fuss was about.
The first thing that hit me was intimidation. Not caused by any behaviour but by the sheer numbers of them. Maroon. Everywhere. The few remarks like “What are these hobos doing here?” were futile. I was there with my mates not expecting to gain anything from what the scoreboard was to deliver come the final whistle, but purely the vibe and rivalry that has made this event legendary. And I have to say as soon as I nestled down amongst my UCT brethren it hit me right from the start. It was amazing.
Surrounded by a vast army of tens of thousands of maroon jerseys was fantastic. A true eye-opener to what happens when a varsity is based on a residence system with the top South African boys schools being feeders to the institution, bringing their culture of pride and passionate support to the stands. The pressure on the Ikeys supporters was met by what I would describe as the most unified I have witnessed our fantastic institution. Despite our small numbers, every chant was met with a powerful response by all Ikeys supporters. It was a moment I was so proud to be singing with the rest of the Ikeys. Just being a part of it sent my endorphins soaring.
On the field, the Ikeys were up against a superb team. There is no denying it. The players were true ambassadors for their university. But the real shame is that the same cannot be said for the ‘supporters’. Do not get me wrong, the last thing I want is a recurrence of the article 2 years ago written by Anton Taylor that I am sure we are all familiar with, after the commotion it created. But what I experienced from about 10 minutes in was truly disgusting. The only comparison I can draw it to, on a larger scale, is the action of the soccer hooligans depicted in Ross Kemp on Gangs: Poland edition. What truly shocked me, was, that instead of this behaviour coming from the low-life, uneducated, scum of society; it was coming from educated individuals attending one of the top universities in the country.
I had been told about beer cans being hailed at us but I never knew it had reached that level. Every time the Maties crossed our line, our stand was plummeted with cans of beer. This may sounds quite amusing to some, but about 7 cans every ten seconds full of fluid hitting you on the head is not a joyful experience, with the bruises, gashes and blood to show for it. I would love to say that there was no retaliation met on our side but unfortunately this was not the case, however, it could not compare to the dozens of cans that landed in our stands. After a while this just got out of hand, with aggression at boiling point and fights breaking out. Upon confronting (and being ignored by) the first security guard, the second one asked me what he was supposed to do. Personally I do not think that staring into the crowd watching it happen was in their job description. Eventually, being sent to the head of security did not make the situation any more ideal. After asking for some form of intervention to prevent what could have ended a lot worse than what it had already reached, I was told “Are they throwing beer? This is normal”. This is normal sir? You promote the culture of throwing what can, and already has, caused bodily damage. Apparently this happens at every Varsity Cup game in Stellies. And this seems to be accepted by the varsity, with no measures being put into place to prevent it, whereas UCT has forbidden cans to be taken out of the beer tent, instead opting for plastic cups, a point I ignored in previous home games but now realise how a bit of insight and intelligence can prevent animalistic behaviour.
A real eye-opener was, with 15 minutes to go, hoards of female Maties supporters in the area started leaving. It is quite sad when a team that is 32 points ahead, it’s own supporters, instead of celebrating a victory, choose to leave the stands in fear of their safety. The very Maties supporters who created their vibe, created an environment where their own women felt unsafe, and no longer wanted to be exposed to. This was enough for me. Having had a superb time ruined by rampant behaviour, our group decided to leave an unsafe environment where Maties fans were being held back by their friends and prevented from entering our stands to fight, all being witnessed by the security, of whose job I am still unaware of. This was no place for any girl to be. Maties supporter or not. So we grabbed the girls and left.
Today was an experience that has changed my view on the rivalry between the two institutions, which was one I had thought as healthy and unifying. However this seems to have crossed the threshold of hatred. And how does this make me feel? In one word: fulfilled. I now know that I made the right decision. Maties can keep their vibe, and their stadium. They can keep their winning rugby team and their unity. Today I joined a few hundred students of the best University in Africa. And today I learned how far off anybody else is. I was so happy to return to civilisation, with rational behaviour and sports ethics from supporters. We may have only one Varsity Cup title, but we have what we came here for. A world-class education, civil behaviour and a safe environment that does the exact opposite of raise hooligans with no ounce of respect, disgracing the name of the beautiful game of rugby.
I never thought it possible but today I am prouder than before to call myself a UCT student. I know how hard I worked and what I sacrificed to get in here. I came to UCT to find something. I never expected it to give me everything.