Tumo Mokone

Derby must rescue its glory

2010-02-19 12:08
Sport24 columnist Tumo Mokone (File)
Tumo Mokone

It’s Soweto Derby time again, and once again the most celebrated fixture in South African football has no influence on the conclusion of the current league championship. If anything Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates will be drawing swords at Orlando on Saturday to lay a claim to the third spot in the Absa Premiership.

The second place has been taken, by Mamelodi Sundowns. This fact however will be confirmed tonight, as Sundowns and Moroka Swallows play out the remainder of the match abandoned in the midweek due to power failure at Super Stadium in Tshwane. At the time the Swallows were leading 2-0 after 35 minutes of play.

The Premier Soccer League’s rules say the two sides must play the remainder of the time still left in the match, with the scoreline unchanged and the two teams fielding the same players who were on the field when the play was stopped on Wednesday. Miracles do happen in football, but in my book Sundowns defeat will be confirmed at the final whistle.

With Sundowns failing to earn points against Swallows, the league title will deservedly go to SuperSport United, who have been on top since October 2009. United’s third time title victory would have happened on Saturday night, after disposing of a weary Bidvest Wits side. However, that match has since been postponed, together with six other fixtures which were scheduled for Saturday night.

The postponement of the United-Wits match has rescued some semblance of importance to the Derby on Saturday afternoon. I mean, what would the excitement been about for the two Soweto giants, meeting on the same day as SuperSport United would be crowned champions again? Nothing could have been more deflating for Pirates and Chiefs, especially the players.

It would appear, however, that the Soweto Derby these days means more to the fans than the two teams involved. In the last encounter in November 2009, the excitement had gripped everybody in the football fraternity, because the derby was returning home to Soweto for the first time in 25 years.

Orlando was packed, the weather pleasant, officials in a good mood in their VIP suites and the fans making merry with their vuvuzelas and usual other stadium pranks.  In short, all was good for an exciting soccer match. But lo and behold, the two teams sauntered into the field and conspired to dish out a performance that stood in stark contrast to the atmosphere.

Needless to say, the boring derby match last November ended in a goalless draw. I don’t bet on anything different, more so that at stake is the quest to finish a lousy third.

Fighting for bronze has never inspired brilliance in football, that’s why nobody watches the third place playoff in major tournaments. Nigeria axed its coach Shuaibu Amodu, even though the poor man finished third – despite the unmanageable squad of clumsy overrated stars.

Overrated fittingly describes mostly what Pirates, the host tomorrow, has in its playing staff. The team survives mostly on the form and enthusiasm of keeper Moeneeb Josephs. Beyond the “Slimkat” I see ordinary players who would not be out of place in regional clubs like Platinum Stars or Maritzburg United. Ironically, the latter gave the blundering Bucs their third defeat in five matches in 2010 on Wednesday. 

Chiefs come to the derby after their midweek game against relegation candidates Mpumalanga Black Aces was abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch at Loftus. Amakhosi were leading 1-0 when play was stopped after just 31 minutes. 

Chiefs however play with conviction and confidence, while their game also has more entertainment value. My favourite player is rookie Knowledge Musona, the cheeky Zimbabwean striker who ironically never played top flight soccer in his home country. The 20-year-old has the ability to leave the Bucs team in tatters, and fans in tears.

While Chiefs can also look up to resurgent veteran striker Nkosinathi Nhleko, Pirates on the other hand have nobody upfront who can match the temperament and form of Nhleko and Musona.  It is not surprising therefore that the Buccaneers are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. Their tally of 25 goals in 28 matches returns a measly rate of 0.9 goals per match. Compare that with SuperSport’s 50 goals in 28 matches, then it becomes clear why the Pretoria side is on top.

The ball is in Pirates and Chiefs court to rescue the prestige of the Soweto Derby. It is not enough to say the fixture is about bragging rights among the followers of these two teams.  The derby must be the holy grain of SA football; a feature of brilliance and all that’s good about the Absa Premiership.

But as long as the derby continues without bearing any authority on the Premiership, then very soon it will have to find a way to explain its glorified significance. How come the biggest match in the country has been reduced to a skirmish for the No 3 spot?

Tumo writes exclusively for Sport24.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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With the Absa Premiership in full swing, who will be crowned champions when all is said and done? Will Mamelodi Sundowns defend their title? Or can Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates or Bidvest Wits mount a serious challenge? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

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