Adopt a Fan

So, here’s an idea. I’m calling it a campaign, and I’d like it to spread like a virus.

It will require effort and commitment, and it will take up some of your time. You’ll need to step out of your comfort zone, set aside a small part of your entertainment fund, and make plans that require scheduling and sticking to a plan of action. If you get involved, though, I have a deep suspicion that we can all contribute significantly to changing the way South African society functions.

There’s been a lot of media attention, recently, given to the white elephant status of the soccer stadia. Then I look at the local PSL games being played in those venues, and have to gasp when I count the number of open seats.

I have a feeling that a lot of soccer fans have neither the money to buy a ticket for games at these venues, nor the means to get to them. For many people, the idea of going to one of those stadia may not even register as a real-life possibility. It’s also evident that there aren’t a heck of a lot of white people watching soccer. However, this campaign isn’t really about football…it’s about taking part in determining how South African society will function in the future.

The idea is this: Make the decision to become interested in football, or at the very least choose one game happening at your local stadium; you can use the online PSL fixture list. Schedule time to attend the game, and find out a bit about the teams involved.

Now comes the more challenging part. I want you to invite someone to watch the game with you. No, you’re not inviting your mate, your neighbour, or someone you’re trying to do business with. You’re going to invite someone new, someone you might never dreamed of spending two hours with. Speak to your local petrol attendant, the guy who works in your garden, the freelance parking attendant who you’ve always thought is a nuisance. The cashier at your local supermarket; the person who packs your shopping bags; the security guard who roams the mall.

We’re calling the campaign Adopt a Fan.

Find out if your chosen candidate is at all interested in watching soccer. Even if they’re not, they might be curious about attending a game. Make it a conversation, not an interview. Introduce yourself and make meaningful small talk. Ask if they’d like to watch a game at the stadium—millions of South Africans have never had that opportunity. Ask if they’d like to accompany you; check if they’re free and able to go to the match you’ve chosen. Of course they’ll be a little confused and surprised. But get chatting a bit, and let this person know that you’re offering to not only buy them a ticket, but that you’d like to take them to the football. You’d like to watch the game with them. If you’re not much of a soccer enthusiast yourself, you’re likely to benefit from their insight into the game, their knowledge of the local teams, and the way in which South African soccer fans support their teams.

If you get on board, you’re going to buy this person a ticket (they’re much, much cheaper than the FIFA tickets), and then spend the game with them. This isn’t a call to hand out tickets—this is a campaign to activate meaningful social interaction.

Be sure to take some time understanding whether or not your adopted fan has the means to get to the game. Discuss the public transport situation with them and find out how you can help. Try to encourage the most eco-friendly transport solution. Buses and trains before taxis and cars. If you usually drive into the city, see if you’re able to make a switch to public transport.

Make definite arrangements in terms of meeting times; make it a two-way discussion and be aware that many South Africans have significant restrictions on their ability to travel at night. Many people might be suspicious or baffled by what you’re suggesting; that’s understandable, so take the time to carefully outline your plan. It’s best to set up this social outing a week or two in advance and then maintain contact with your adopted fan during the time leading up to the match. See how things go, and be sure you stick to your plan.

Don’t adopt children as fans, unless they are going to be accompanied by their own parents. This is a good idea if you have children of your own; take your children along too. If you can afford to adopt a whole family, do. Very young children will not enjoy the noise and confusing energy inside the stadium, so don’t inflict the event on them.

At the match: Keep the experience alcohol-free. Try to avoid junk food, and be honest and open about why you prefer drinking fruit juice or water instead of Coke, and perhaps you’d like to talk about the problem of plastic-packaged water, too. Be yourself, but be thoughtful and conscious of your actions. You may swear like a sailor amongst your friends when you’re watching rugby, but your adopted fan might be deeply religious and conservative, perhaps even offended by strong language. Show a genuine interest in what the person sitting next to you has to say. Listen carefully and if the conversation moves towards politics, keep an open mind; don’t judge.

If the plan fails, your adopted fan drops out, or some small crisis interferes and screws with the arrangements, don’t see this as the end of the world or the end of your chance to make this happen. Persevere, follow up, and see if there are other ways in which you can connect with the people in your world.

Above all, speak to your friends, family, colleagues and online fans and acquaintances about this. Blog about it, Facebook it, Tweet it, and spread the word. This campaign will be paper- and print-free, so no marketing that requires the depletion of any natural resource, please. Like a virus, let the word spread from one person to the next.

And please post your comments, suggestions, ideas and experiences here at Soberholic.

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