When thinking of sports in South Africa it would be easy for rugby to spring to mind, or even cricket. But, South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and the continent has millions of football fans.
South Africa is home to the PSL - Premier Soccer League. This is the equivalent of the Bundesliga or EPL. However, the International Federation of Football Statistics and History ranks the PSL outside the top 50 of the world’s leagues.
This doesn’t mean that the standard of football is poor though. One particular South African club stands out.
Is football popular in South Africa?
Football is a highly popular sport across all of Africa. Many people in neighbouring countries follow the PSL. One study showed that 81% of the population had an interest in football. For those that are interested in stats and numbers, the Soweto derby regularly attracts crowds of 80,000 to 90,000.
PSL games are shown live on TV throughout the week. And fans gather at home to watch games together. Just as in England, fans can look up soccer predictions and increase the fun of any match.
The FNB stadium has the largest capacity with 94,736. But, average attendances at PSL games are far lower. Some clubs average just a few thousand fans at home games.
Nevertheless, football remains highly popular. Low attendances are not a sign of disinterest. Rather, they reflect the economic challenges facing the population.
Which is the most successful club in South Africa?
Standing out visibly are the Kaizer Chiefs. With a record 12 league title wins, and over 22 club trophies, Kaizer Chiefs are the most successful South African football club.
However, only 4 of those title wins came during the PSL era. Since 2105, the Kaizer Chiefs have been without a major trophy win. Not only this, but they have had to watch their biggest rivals pick up the MTN8 Cup and the Nedbank Cup in just the last couple of seasons.
Kaizer Chiefs were founded in 1970 by former players from the Pirates. This has helped to create one of the great football rivalries, and so began the Soweto Derby.
What honours have the Kaizer Chiefs won?
Unless the Kaizer Chief’s trophy drought continues, they will remain the most successful club in South Africa due to their previous haul.
The Kaizer Chiefs’ trophy cabinet includes:
- Premier Soccer League: 4 wins, 6 runners-up
- National Soccer League: 3 wins
- National Professional Soccer League: 5 wins
- Nedbank Cup: 13 wins
- Telkom Knockout: 13 wins
- MTN8 Cup: 15 wins
Other achievements include wins in the African Cup Winners Cup and runners-up in the CAF Super Cup, and CAF Champions League.
How do the Kaizer Chiefs today compare with previous incarnations?
The current Kaizer Chiefs team is still highly competitive. They may not have the silverware to prove it, but that will come. It can be argued though, that previous incarnations were more dominant.
While the Chiefs dominated South African football in past times, there is one factor to consider. Football across South Africa is far more competitive now. Other teams have invested and shown continual improvement. Judging the current Chiefs team against previous ones cannot solely be done on trophy wins.
The club is committed to building a new stadium for its fans to enjoy. Updates on the Amakhosi Stadium continue, but clearly, the club is pushing for further success in the future.
Are the Kaizer Chiefs the most popular South African club?
The clue is in the stadium. Currently, FNB Stadium is home to the Kaizer Chiefs. It isn’t just the largest stadium in the PSL but in the whole of Africa.
No other stadium in Africa has a larger capacity than the FNB Stadium. At the start of the century, the Kaizer Chiefs' fan base was around 16 million. More than 40 million people across Southern Africa follow the Chiefs' progress.
When compared to some of the European teams this may not seem so impressive. Teams like Real Madrid have the biggest fanbases in the world with 400 million plus supporters. But, in the scheme of South African football, this is a huge following.
Notable Kaizer Chiefs players
One of the most notable footballers to be associated with the Chiefs has to be Kaizer Motaung. Not only did Kaizer Motaung play professionally, but he also founded the club.
Perhaps the most notable player for any European football fan would be Lucas Radebe. Radebe played for the Chiefs for five years before moving to Leeds United. A highly skilled player, he was quick to win over the Leeds faithful and also became captain of the SA national team.
Leeds United received a bargain in Radebe. His fee was just £250,000 which represented great value for money. Incidentally, Radabe’s move to Leeds was the inspiration behind the band called Kaiser Chiefs.
How do the Kaizer Chiefs stand up against the European giants?
The South African football team has twice been coached by a British manager. But, so far the PSL hasn’t attracted any European players of standing. The main reason possibly is the lack of resources.
Despite Bryan Robson stating that the Kaizer Chiefs could easily compete in the European Cup, it is unlikely that they would beat the likes of Manchester City for instance. The US Major League is on the rise. And much of that is down to capital investment and resources.
The FIFA World Cup had a long-term effect on football in the USA. And the effect of the 2010 World Cup was positive for South Africa too. But, it could be argued that the USA has progressed far more than the Rainbow Nation.
With the economic challenges facing the country, it is unlikely that the PSL will produce teams to match Real Madrid just yet. But, the quality is there, and with investment will only grow better.
Perhaps not on the same standing as the top EPL teams, but with a packed trophy case nevertheless. Kaizer Chiefs are not just the most successful club in South Africa, but the most popular too.
No doubt, the current hunt for a trophy will come to an end soon enough. And the current Chiefs team will be lauded as those in the past with players such as Luca Radebe.