MODERN-DAY TACTICS stifle derby
As Orlando Pirates host Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday, Timothy Molobi previews the game through the eyes of two soccer legends who played in early Soweto derbies
When Chiefs and Pirates clash, it is not only Soweto that feels the heat; the nation feels it too as the game is followed by fans all over the country. And Saturday will be no different.
Former Chiefs and Pirates defender Stanley “Screamer” Tshabalala played in the first Soweto derby on January 24 1970 as part of the splinter group that broke away from Pirates to form Kaizer XI. He bemoans the fact that today’s derby has lost its spark.
Tshabalala blames the two teams’ coaches for this, saying that they are stifling players.
“The game has become too tactical now and this limits players’ movements as they cannot freely express themselves,” says Tshabalala, who is now Pirates’ technical adviser.
Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba, who also featured for the Buccaneers in the early days of the derby, shared Tshabalala’s sentiments. He says the two eras are incomparable.
The former Pirates captain played in five derbies in the 1970s and guided Pirates to a clean sweep of all the silverware on offer in 1973.
He says it will be suicidal to compare the current and past players’ commitment, involvement and team spirit.
“We used to play attractive football, not the dull stuff we are exposed to now. I don’t remember playing in front of empty stands. We used to express ourselves.
“Defenders were robust and hard-tackling, but creative players used to come up with means to overcome them. That made all the difference,” says Mashaba.
He says there is too much pressure now, which includes TV coverage, awards and incentives.
Tshabalala says unlike before, teams now belong to the coaches who dictate and control the players.
The game has become too tactical now and this limits players’ movements as they cannot express themselves freely STANLEY ‘SCREAMER’ TSHABALALA
“Back then, players used to dictate terms. Today, the game is too tactical, and the coaches stifle the players and control their movements. Players are afraid of being adventurous.”
Going down memory lane, he reminisces: “We were called marabele [rebels] then because the players were from Pirates and that made the derby very fierce. Pirates supporters didn’t want to hear anything about Chiefs.”
Tshabalala later swapped the Chiefs jersey for a Pirates one.
He says the most exciting football in the country was played in the Soweto derby, but coaches use negative tactics today.
“Today, teams play not to lose games – they play with two defensive midfielders and are more cautious, so there are only a few goals.
“Once one team scores, they close shop and protect the lead. In those times, it was end-to-end stuff and it was free-flowing.”
Chiefs will go into Saturday’s game as firm favourites after going 13 games unbeaten in all competitions this season. Before today, they had won eight games and drawn one league fixture.
Amakhosi have already bagged the MTN8 title and play Platinum Stars in the Telkom KO quarterfinal today.
Despite their impressive record, Stuart Baxter has been criticised for his defensive tactics and his tendency to close shop once Amakhosi have scored.
Vladimir “VV” Vermezović has also come in for severe criticism for his insistence on using a lone striker in a system where he alternates Kermit Erasmus and Lehlohonolo Majoro.
Both coaches know the amount of pressure that comes with the derby as they are not mafikizolos (newcomers) to Mzansi football.
Tshabalala says form counts for naught in the derby as the underdogs rise to the occasion.
He says the fact that Pirates recently lost the MTN8 to their bitter rivals means they will be going all out for revenge.
We used to play attractive football, not the dull stuff we are exposed to now. I don’t remember playing in front of empty stands EPHRAIM ‘SHAKES’ MASHABA
WINNER Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba is hoisted high by Orlando Pirates fans after yet another victory for the team in the early 1970s
SCREAM Stanley ‘Screamer’ Tshabalala was a founder member of Kaizer Chiefs