COMMENT: Santos F.C is one of the saddest tales in South African football

CapeTownFootball journalist Kyle Lewis shares his view on the downward spiral of The People’s Team


Growing up, being a day one Santos supporter, I’ve always enjoyed watching them play whether it’s at junior or senior level. But this year, looking at the Metropolitan under-19 Premier Cup fixtures, I noticed Santos missing from it.

I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the beginning of a new generation.

Having played in the qualifiers myself, I know that there is no space for average teams, only the elite go through.

It was no secret that through the 21st century Santos produced the stars while Ajax snatched them in their youth years at the smell of potential, and the players will already be taking nervous little glances over their shoulder, waiting for the inevitable “we’re a big club, this is the way modern football is, no hard feelings, off you go.”

However, Santos, we’re still up there with Ajax.

Ever since the relegation of The People’s Team in the 2011/2012 season, they have lessened as a club and as a youth academy. Ask any local football viewer who is the big academies in Cape Town, and names like Hellenic, Old Mutual, ASD (who pulled out of the qualifiers), Milano United will appear with Santos falling behind the pack.

The day Santos lost the relegation playoffs, my heart sunk because my mind knew that they wouldn’t come back up soon due to having to relinquish their top players. Today, still I watch them play their home games at Athlone Stadium with a quarter full stadium, where you not sure if the spectators are fans or just looking for a good game of football as a neutral.

The performances is okay, but there’s no purpose in their play. It seems as if they have given up on that dream of returning to the PSL and focusing on staying in the NFD.

Unfortunately for Santos, being a viewer of the NFD, I believe it’s harder to get out of that sinking pit of a league than stay in the PSL.

It seems as if it was only now the other day when Santos escaped relegation by beating African Wanderers courtesy of a winner from Peter Philander. Being yanked back from the abyss, one must provide the single most exhilarating relief a football fan could experience or the amazing feeling when they lifted the trophy with Gordan Iguesand in the 2001/2002 season.

Sadly, memory in football is short, you can go from Cult Heroes to nobody’s in a second.

What makes me sad is what we have left from the Santos legacy, their ex-players scattered all over the NFD and PSL. What this is, really, is just the saddest, most dispiritingly enforced end of a cycle.

It’s basically what happens when modern football says: Nice try!

I watch what were previously considered their ‘rivals’ Ajax Cape Town, have ex Santos players kissing their badge and playing their hearts out for them. When one of my favorite players, the used to be blond headed, Erwin Isaacs broke Ajax fans hearts on many occasions.

Now he has black hair and is finally replicating his Santos form, a bittersweet moment but this moment had a powerful subliminal message. The message that life has gone on, Football has moved on from Santos while they slowly turn into a fading memory.


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