Bevy of PSL contenders
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
The MTN8 tournament has been a good harbinger of fortunes to come over the last seasons. After lifting the trophy in both 2010 and 2011, Orlando Pirates went on to take the league title.
This is not a good portent for Kaizer Chiefs, summarily put to the sword on Sunday by Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarter-final of this year’s top eight.
But even as they lick their wounds after a 4-1 thumping, few should be writing AmaKhosi off just yet.
While defensive frailties let them down at Loftus Versfeld, there have been enough indications over the last weeks to suggest they will be much more than just credible contenders this campaign. They have their best chance yet to break a seven-year league title drought.
Sundowns, as always, have enormous potential, with a fearsome looking squad, but have debunked the international trend of recent years that money buys success. It has worked for Roman Abramovich but not as successfully for Patrice Motsepe, whose return on silverware for his prolific purse has been paltry.
Consistency will again be key this year to Sundowns’ chances and a decent prognosis of their chances will only be possible after a few more weeks of action. They open their league programme with what looks a doddle against Premier Soccer League new boys Chippa United but have a long history of underrating the underdog and paying the subsequent penalty. It will be fascinating to see how methodical and clinical they are on Saturday night at home in Atteridgeville to the debutants.
Champions Pirates are the other obvious title favourites, meaning that yet again we have the fabled trio as the leading tips for the title. A bit ‘same old, same old’ I hear you say. But that is the reality of the domestic game.
What is possibly going to be different this season is the potential of many other clubs to bridge the gap and become regular contenders too.
SuperSport United have done that over the last decade and must now also be considered credible contenders, even if they have lost quality players like Morgan Gould, Tebogo Langerman and Kermit Erasmus (said to be going to Sweden).
Then there has been a sudden burst of ambition shown by the likes of Bloemfontein Celtic, Free State Stars, Platinum Stars and Wits. All have been prolific in the transfer market in the pre-season, buying with much more purpose and forethought.
Will their newly strengthened squads now be able to turn the PSL from its usual four team championship race to a situation where there might be eight sides chasing for the title come the end of the season.
It would be an exceedingly healthy situation were we to have a bevy of teams closing in on the finish line at the end of the campaign, enlivening even further the league and breaking the predictable mould.
This will become clearer sooner rather than later, now that the league is about the kick off and the weekly routine of PSL soccer returns.
Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.
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