“Today is the saddest day, I just woke up feeling sad knowing the curtain will be shut down on my beloved club Bidvest Wits at 17H30,” says Thato Mogotsi, who has been a fan of The Students all his life.
Even gloomier, Mogotsi will not be able to witness his team end the sad chapter on the eve of its century celebration as football is still being played behind closed doors.
Bidvest Wits play their last game of the season – sadly the last of an era – after the club’s PSL franchise was sold to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, a name very few of the club’s fans can easily pronounce. TTM will move the club to Limpopo next season and sadly part ways with most of the Wits staff who made the club what it is today. Players like Thulani Hlatshwayo, Ricardo Goss and Deon Hotto don the Clever Boys jersey for the last time.
One would imagine, there is little to play for by the Wits players today when they take on a Polokwane City side stared by the reality of the chop from topflight football. Their relegation is as good as confirmed. It would take a miracle to save them. Rise and Shine can only live to fight another day via the relegation playoffs if they win 4-0 and Kaizer Chiefs also beat Baroka FC 4-0 in their final game. That certainly sounds like Mission Impossible!
On the other hand, downhearted Wits go into the match perched on fifth place, level on points with fourth placed Orlando Pirates and just a point adrift of SuperSport United, who sit in third place.
A win, which they can easily get against a struggling City side, may see them jump to third place depending on how Pirates and SuperSport fare.
For Ntando Mahlangu, also an ardent follower of cricket, it feels like that ‘blue walk’ from the crease back to the pavilion after missing out on reaching a century.
“At least in cricket you know there will be another game, there is hope. But in our case, Bidvest Wits is gone. It’s gone for good,” Mahlangu says.
For Mogotsi, whose father rose from being a gatekeeper to a director over his 36 years at the club, the saddest thing is that he won’t be able to say goodbye to the players who had become like brothers to him.
“It’s sad I can’t even watch them play,” he says.
His friend Thabang Gabriel Tlhako, who was a regular at Wits’ home games, likens Saturday to a “funeral for Bidvest Wits”. He equates the miserable end of an era to the loss of a close person and vows it will be difficult to settle for any other club.
“I’ll make a tombstone for Bidvest Wits, my heart is sore but I have to accept it,” Tlhako says sarcastically.
He is not even sure if he will rock his collection of Bidvest jerseys.
“It’s not gonna be the same. The way things went was unfair to the players and supporters. We were close to celebrating 100 years, our dreams are down the drain. We don’t know what the way forward is. I had a good relationship with the players,” he adds.
“I said to the guys ‘you got to respect the game and play properly’, people can say what they want, ah we’re playing for nothing but we’re playing for our pride, we want to finish well,” he was quoted as saying recently.
But as the curtain comes down on a memorable era, the Wits faithful will take solace in that ‘our memories of yesterday will last a lifetime’. The Wits faithful will then take the best, forget the rest, and perhaps someday find that these were the best of times.
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By Mthokozisi Dube