Black Leopards chairman David Thidiela says he will do everything in his power to make sure the club plays their Premier Soccer League home matches at Thohoyandou Stadium next season.
Leopards joined NFD champions Highlands Park in the Absa Premiership by winning the play-offs on Wednesday following a 1-0 victory over Jomo Cosmos at the Venda-based venue, which requires upgrades to become PSL compliant.
“I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy,” Thidiela tells KickOff.com following Leopards’ return to the topflight after a five-year absence.
“You know people from this area love their football. And they were all looking up to me to do miracles so I knew where could I get a miracle. For me it was just to bow down and talk to the owner of the people, the creator, and say here the people are expecting the miracles from me and I can’t do it without you. I’m happy that God gave me what we needed.
“I’m going nowhere, the team belongs here, the owners are here. During a working day, not a holiday, at 10:30am the tickets were sold out. We will comply. You saw the premier was there, Julius Malema was there, our king was there, the other chiefs around here … because we are in a rural [area], they were also there.The mayors were there, the executive mayor … everybody was there.
“So this is the only place where people are so passionate in soccer. The MEC was on radio this morning … we are busy here, we are going to get this facility right. We just have to comply with the rules and we are going to comply.”
Thidiela took the opportunity to thank the club’s supporters who came in numbers to support the team the whole season.
“I’m so grateful, you know those are the people who keep us going. They follow us wherever we go. In Vosloorus three-quarters was my fans. Platinum Stars, I took everybody there, not less than a hundred supporters away from home. So we will definitely do it for them. I cannot tell you how do we fill up the stadium because other people might steal my ideas (laughs) … you know this is my gift from God the Almighty.
“You know the supporters, you need to appreciate what they are doing. We thank them for their support, and bear in mind Black Leopards supporters, they don’t come to the stadium freely, they buy tickets. The tickets go for R20 and R30 for grandstand. Day in, day out we were having enough of a crowd. Even if we were playing in this league with unknown teams we were getting enough people to keep going. So for that I appreciate so much you know, I feel they own this team. We want to do everything that will make these people happy. To make them happy is to win the games and that’s what we want to do.
“You saw old men and grannies with small children at the stadium? It’s because all pensioners, we let them in for free. Children under 15 it’s free, why are we doing that? Because when we are no more the football nation it must still go on and continue. It will be the same thing next season, but children who are under 10 years old must be accompanied by older people. Pensioners will get in for free but they must produce their grant cards.
“PSL football will boost our economy here, sports play a very important role you know. We’ve got plenty of fruits here and people will buy. We are bringing the tourists this side because of soccer. We are not going to move away from here, Chiefs, Pirates … everybody will play at Thohoyandou next season. Everybody is coming to the slaughterhouse. You know we must do what people like, so God sent this through me, this is a thuma mina, that’s what our president [Cyril Ramaphosa] says. You know Vendas, we are humble people? Thuma mina, I’m happy, I’m so grateful that God is doing this through me.”
PSL official Ronnie Schloss says Thohoyandou Stadium’s suitability for topflight football will be assessed before the new season.
“They have put up floodlights now, there’s certain minimum requirements that they have got to sort out and I’m sure they can be. But the PSL committee will have to look at it to ensure that it meets all the minimum requirements. The pitch is acceptable, those were problems in the past, and now it’s just a couple of safety items that needs attention with regards to entry and exit. And I’m sure that if all these requirements are complied with there will be no problem.
“Our most important concern is the safety of the spectators and that relates to entry and exit from stadium, things like that. Those we need to sort out. They gotta fix some certain things but they can be fixed, that’s not impossible,” Schloss explains.