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A devastating departure

The sale of Bloemfontein Celtic has left residents and die-hard supporters at a loss. We detail the transaction's impact on the people of Bloemfontein
Thu, Aug 19, 2021

So long... PHOTOS: Bloem Celtic Twitter

A dark cloud has befallen South African football and the city of Bloemfontein. 52 years of rich history, culture, pride, heritage, loyalty, dedication, love, and passion have been lost in a millisecond. Where does one even begin to express what this enormous event means to the beautiful game, and particularly the loyal and ever faithful Bloemfontein Celtic supporters?

I'm in a spiral of different emotions, this loss shoots straight to the heart!

When the news broke that the club had been officially sold to tycoon Shauwn Mkhize, the weather in Bloemfontein was gloomy. It's as though the heavens were in agreement with Siwelele faithful, evincing that, indeed, the darkest period has befallen the people of Mangaung.

When defining 'loyalty' in soccer terms, one doesn't have to look far for the perfect definition – Bloemfontein Celtic supporters vigorously fit that description. It is what set us apart from the rest of the National Soccer League compatriots. A title we've proudly embraced and carried for so many years. A special title no one can ever take away from the loyal Siwelele faithful.

Everyone who's had the pleasure of being in the presence of the green sea has a unique story to tell, but one thing that is common in their stories is how they always raved about the 'loyalty', 'dedication' and 'passion' the people of Bloemfontein demonstrated for our team.

You didn't have to be a Siwelele fan to be fond of the club. The passion and love demonstrated by Masele for their team were contagious, this being evident in how supporters of other teams instantly formed a bond with Masokolara.

When my little brother started pre-primary school in the late 2000s, he came back from school one day humming Siwelele songs. He then asked me: "What soccer team do you support?" Puzzled, I answered: "Kaizer Chiefs".

"Is the team from Bloemfontein?," he asked. At this point I was getting agitated because what's with so many questions? I answered: "No, it is from Soweto, in Gauteng... Why are you asking me all these questions?"

"Today," he said, "the teacher taught us about Bloemfontein Celtic and why it is special to us. She said it is our pride and we should always support it. So, does that mean you have no pride in it?". Since then, my view and sense of pride towards Celtic turned over a new leaf.

My little brother is not your typical football fanatic, by the way, but when it comes to Bloem Celtic, he takes pride, and his face always lights up when talks about them.

He often bragged about how they share the same space with his favourite team following Celtic's move to Siwelele Park over a few years ago, which is right next to his school, Bloemfontein High School. Like many Bloemfontein residents, the dissolution of what was one of the most admired teams in South African football has greatly dismayed him.

The point I'm making is that, although not a big fan of the sport, he was a big fan of Celtic. This being the evidence of the teachings and great deal of knowledge of the club's history and heritage imparted by those who loved what was valuable to them. Bloem Celtic was more than just football, it was our pride.

Another thing that distinguished Masokolara faithful from the rest of the NSL supporters is their modesty. Despite the tumultuous internal affairs within the club, and even when desired results were often not achieved, they made it their culture to create a harmonious environment for both home and away teams. You cannot be in the presence of Masele and not be made to feel special – it comes naturally.

The demise of Bloemfontein Celtic is an incredible loss, not only to its supporters and the beautiful game, but to everyone associated with the club. The players that sweat green and white blood, remained loyal to the team and gave their all in the field of play even during times of turmoil.

The Free State Cheetahs rugby team has lost their football brothers, the Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies have lost their big brothers, the office cleaners, the lawn man and the behind-the-scenes unsung heroes have lost their sources of income.

I know the club was faced with lots of challenges, including and especially financial woes. But what about those whose financial stability and security was with this club?

The people of Bloemfontein have lost their identity and sense of belonging in the beautiful game. What a shame that some failed to step up and protect the legacy of our great club's forefathers.

Ntate Petrus Molemela, who wholeheartedly loved the People's Team and its supporters, must be turning in his grave. When I met and embraced him on the corridors, at the official reopening of the refurbished Dr. Molemela Stadium in October 2015, neither of us anticipated this devastating loss. What a sad time, what a shame!

All is not lost, however. The Bloem Celtic Ladies team is still safe and will remain in the City of Roses as well as its ABC Motsepe League's side. Perhaps, the ABC Motsepe League will restore what faith and hope to the people of Bloemfontein and the Free State province.

Seeing that I no longer have a 'home team', and with my father being originally from Pretoria, perhaps I should consider a self-transfer to the blue side of Tshwane, SuperSport United. However, fellow football fanatics are welcome to suggest potential 'home teams' for me. I will be happy to review them all.

Maybe the return of Bloemfontein Celtic will happen someday. However, it will never replace its origins and the authenticity of the 52 years that has been wiped off in a fraction of a second. We have experienced losses in the game of football, but nothing compares to this terrific loss.

Until then, so long, Phunya Sele…