Fans come to praise Booth, not to boo him

By Mark Gleeson
June 16, 2009

Matthew Booth stands out in the South African side. At 1,98m, he towers over his team mates and is also the only white player in the home team’s starting line-up at the Confederations Cup.

He is also very popular with the fans, the majority of whom are black, and who remember with particular affection the role he played as captain of the South African under-23 side when they beat Brazil at the Olympic Games nine years ago.

Booth has only just made it back to the national side after a long hiatus. His club career in Russia had cost him a place in the Bafana Bafana team, as he disappeared out of the local consciousness and was ignored by a succession of coaches.

Every time he touches the ball, both for Bafana Bafana and for his club Mamelodi Sundowns, the crowd chant, “Boooooootttt”.

Few favoured players get such reverence from South Africans fans.

Lucas Radebe, a predecessor in the heart of the South African defence, elicited a chorus of “Rhooooo” every time he played a pass or cleared an attack. Mark Fish was “Feeeesh” and another favourite, John Moshoeu, “Shooooes”.

When the German defender Robert Huth played at Chelsea, a similar sound used to echo from the Stamford Bridge fans whenever he touched the ball.

To the uninitiated, when Booth touches the ball, the chorus of approval sounds like a wall of derision. Given the racial history of South Africa, it could be misconstrued as negative barracking and because he is white and the majority of the crowd black, it takes on an even more negative connotation.

Booth patiently explained to confused foreign journalists at some length after the match against Iraq on Sunday about the chant. Almost all wanted to know why the crowd were on his back. Was it because he was white?

But some missed the explanation, including the Spanish daily El Pais who wrote of the “sadness” of a white player being derided by the majority black crowd. The irony is that it could not be further from the truth.

PHOTO: South Africa’s Matthew Booth (L) challenges Iraq’s Nashat Akram during their Confederations Cup soccer match at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg June 14, 2009. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen

10 comments

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That, my friend, is hilarious. And I remember hearing Huuuuuuth for the first time and wondering what the fans were saying

Posted by jamesy | Report as abusive

Incredible story. TV in Brazil had the same mistake than El Pais, saying many times that Booth was being booed because he was the only white player in the team… Nice post!

Posted by Pedro | Report as abusive

Man, the same mistake occured in Goalmouth Blog by CNN !

Made a mistake above.Instead of”Man, the same mistake occured in Goalmouth Blog by CNN !”consider”Man, the same mistake occured in BBC Brasil Website!”

Posted by Marcus Vinicius Pinto Schtruk | Report as abusive

When Van Nistelrooy used to play for Manchester United (not sure about other clubs) the fans used to chant ‘Ruud, Ruud, Ruud, Ruud’ and it sounded like a chorus of boos when it was quite the opposite!http://www.worldfootballcolumns .com

For those foreign Jurnos, Booth is one of the most loved centre back by the fans and i was at the stadium on sunday cheering “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTH”

I thought that was the case but wasn’t 100 percent sure. Great post Mark.

Posted by Red Devil | Report as abusive

thank you for this article really. i also thought the crowd was booing this incredible defender …. but alas; they’re simply BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTHING!!! him

Posted by Limakatso | Report as abusive

Thanks Mark for this piece, Booth is one of the best players in the South African side and the fans love him…BOOOOOTH, thanks for getting South Africa so far in the CONFED CUP….

Posted by Nkosi | Report as abusive

Important 2 mention that South Africa has turnd d page of racisim. This matter has 2b adress with El Pais,CNN,BBc ect. Like Boooooooooooth

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive