Very few people can, if any, contest his love and passion for the game of football. Easily recognisable on the stands with his distinct shower cap at almost all the games, conducting the evergreen army of Bloemfontein Celtic supporters, his name is Botha Msila. Now the thing about Botha is that although he is associated mainly with Siwelele, he is an all round football enthusiast, who travels the length and breadth of this country just to watch a football match, and make sure there is some life out on those stands.
He is the true 12th man. It was therefore heart-warming to see chairman Irvin Khoza honour him with this year’s ‘Chairman’s Award’ at the annual Premier Soccer League awards ceremony held in Johannesburg this past weekend. I caught up with Botha just as he was preparing to head back to the City of Roses on Monday afternoon and had a bit of a heart to heart with him.
So if you allow me, today we’re going to do things a bit differently, as I give you that interview I had with him in full, and uncensored. Probably unrecognisable on the day because he was minus his signature shower cap, a lot of people would not know him. But as we meet and exchange greetings he goes ‘Blah wee’, to which I replied ‘hela yalo san’, as this is the normal greeting in Bloemfontein.
We then got to the nitty gritties.
Benjamin Leshoro: Sho Blah, first of all, congratulations of your award last light. Take us through the motions as you were called up by the chairman.
Botha Msila: Eh I’m very happy. I was excited and emotional. I was astonished that the chairman decided to honour a supporter. It was an honour for me. I didn’t have words. I was shaking. I was crying. 100% excited. Fortunately there were people around me who helped me up and I was able to get to the podium. Finally the supporters are being taken seriously. I’m thankful to the chairman of the PSL for recognising that supporters are an important part of the game.
BL: Did you expect it? Were you forewarned that this is what will take place?
BM: I’ve been attending the awards for more than 10 years, and I did not expect anything. This was just like that. I just decided to come because I couldn’t go to Venda for the Black Leopards (vs Jomo Cosmos) game. I remember even when the Celtic supporters won the “Best Supporters Award” it was the same thing. Nobody had told us. So this one was also a surprise. A good surprise. I was shocked when the chairman said the award was going to a supporter, and people started shouting my name. I was shaking when my song started playing. It was unbelievable.
BL: Now there’s a small matter of R250 000. Is there any plan on how to spend that?
BM: I think I need a financial adviser. I need to sit down with such a person and plan forward. I don’t have a house. I still stay at my parent’s place. So it would be good if I just get something small and God will help me expand it later. Even if I can get a two-roomed house. It will be something.
BL: Speaking of money, the one thing that I’ve always wondered, and I’m sure everybody too is, where does Botha get money to travel all over the country. What is your source of revenue?
BM: Firstly it’s all about the passion. The passion and the love for the game. That is what pushes me to go from one stadium to the other. I do understand that as a supporter, we have a role to play (sic). The players must feel our love. There is no sponsor for what I do. It is very difficult because I don’t work. I don’t fly, I use hikes. It’s a very tough situation. You must buy food for yourself along the way. You must accommodate yourself and see to it that you get back home or to the next match.
BL: A lot of people believe that you get paid for what you do. What is the real situation?
BM: The clubs are not doing anything. There is no budget for supporters. It would be good if the clubs would meet us halfway. If a club can say, ‘Botha go to Durban and we’ll bring you back’, that would be nice. I have seen my Bloemfontein Celtic players and officials get into a bus after a game and not even ask if I’m ok. I mean they are going to Bloemfontein. The least they could do is ask if I have transport. I’m not trying to be special. But they must just look like they care because the next match they still expect to see me there in the stands. I must thank Irvin Khoza again because this is a lesson for all the clubs on how to treat the supporters.
BL: Have you spoken to Celtic about this and propose something of this sort?
BM: We have a new chairman, Mr Max Tshabalala. I will not go to him and say that. I’m giving him a chance to sort things out at the club. I don’t know the budget. So I will not just jump the gun. But I think all the clubs need to have some sort of a plan to subsidise the supporters. Let’s say they organise maybe two 18-seaters for us per game, and say we will maybe pay half-price to go to Durban for a game, or Joburg etc.
BL: When it comes to the national team, has there been anything done by the association to try and get supporters to travel for away matches?
BM: We were lucky that there was a time Bafana played in Niger, and we got to travel with the team in a chartered flight. But from there the sponsors of the team are the ones who sometimes organise something. We were once taken to Germany by Castle Lager to watch Bafana. And before the World Cup they are the ones who took us around the country to promote the tournament. I think SAFA is prepared. We just need a formal structure. The supporters need to have some sort of an “Indaba” to address such issues and present them to the association. Even our teams must come to a solution for this. The clubs must come back to the supporters because we are the custodians of SA football. They must stop thinking of business all the time.
BL: As a person who knows this first hand and knows how the supporters are thinking, why are the stadiums continuing to be empty?
BM: The stadiums are empty because the supporters feel that football is a business. They don’t go to the stadiums to see enetertaining football. For instance, when you went to the stadium in the past to see the late Scara Ngobese, you were guaranteed entertainment. Now coaches go for a more cautious apporach because everyone is trying to save their job. Players also know that if you do a “shibobo” or something, you will be benched. So they in turn try to save their jobs. So the coaches have instilled fear into the players. They just want to go score goals, come back to defend and then the same thing over and over. Sometimes we go to see boring draws at the stadium which is not good for our football.
BL: So let’s talk Bloem Celtic. How do you guys do it? How do you keep up the singing even when things are not going right? Do you even practice these songs?
BM: At Celtic there’s a culture. The supporters understand that, and the players understand that. We don’t have any vuvuzelas at the stadium. We just sing all the way. Anyone can start a song. It doesn’t have to be me. We never shout at the players. Ours is to just support, theirs is to play. You comply and complain later. The players also understand the songs. They know what to do when we sing certain songs.
BL: What has been your highlight in football. Be it for Celtic, Bafana or even any team?
BM: When we recently beat Mamelodi Sundowns 5-0. We showed that Celtic is a big team and can play with the big boys. But I also remember when we played Kaizer Chiefs in a cup final. They led 3-0 at half-time. We came back and scored one, and in the dying minutes we scored two more to equalise. We then went on to win on penalties. That was a thrilling match.
BL: Do you feel it’s about time Celtic won the league. With all the support from the stands?
BM: The supporters of Bloemfontein Celtic are the most deserving in this country. We are the only onew who support the team win or lose. If we can keep our players and not chop and change, we will win the league. The reason we don’t win is that we keep changing and get another player who doesn’t understand the culture. We deserve to win the league and I think our chairman understands that and he has said he came here to win things.
BL: Lastly, tell us about the shower cap. What inspired that? Why not a normal makarapa like other supporters?
BM: I cannot carry a makarapa around. I travel a lot. And we are not violent people. There is nothing I need to protect myself from. A makarapa (or hard hat) is for miners to protect themselves underground. We are football supporters and there is nothing we need to protect ourselves against. This shower cap is white, and white represents peace. And when it rains, I’m also safe from the showers. Hahahaha.
Well that was my chat with Botha Msila. One of the most passionate football supporters around. Perhaps some of the things he said here will be an eye opener for club officals, and perhaps others will also be an inspiration for the supporters. Well done to him, and may he keep going. Hela yalo