Soc­cer fans are in for a treat next sea­son

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI ti­mothy@city­

The coun­try will stand di­vided on Novem­ber 4 as the first Soweto derby of the 2017/18 sea­son takes place.

Ac­cord­ing to the Premier Soc­cer League draft fix­tures sent to clubs for rat­i­fi­ca­tion, the new Absa Premier­ship cal­en­dar will kick off on the week­end of Au­gust 18 and con­clude on May 5.

Un­like last sea­son, where there were ma­jor stop­pages be­cause of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the CAF Africa Cup of Na­tions and Mamelodi Sun­downs’ pro­longed stay in the CAF Cham­pi­ons League, no ma­jor de­lays are ex­pected this sea­son as CAF fix­ture dates have been re­served.

The only chal­lenge will be if Sun­downs and Su­per­Sport ad­vance to the semi­fi­nals of the MTN8 com­pe­ti­tion be­cause those fix­tures clash with CAF dates.

The league did not make any pro­vi­sion for the CAF African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment, which will be played in Kenya early next year, should Bafana Bafana qual­ify.

Ac­cord­ing to the draft sent to clubs, it will be a bap­tism of fire for for­mer Bafana Bafana striker and new Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy, who will face league cham­pi­ons Bid­vest Wits away from home.

This will be McCarthy’s maiden game as a coach fol­low­ing his ap­point­ment last month. If any­thing, this open­ing fix­ture will test his cre­den­tials as he will want to start with a bang. Gavin Hunt’s Stu­dents are striv­ing to be­come the first club to re­tain the Premier League ti­tle since Or­lando Pi­rates in the 2011/12 sea­son, and will aim for a good start.

An in­trigu­ing first round of fix­tures will also see two der­bies. Polok­wane City have been pit­ted against neigh­bours Baroka FC in their open­ing match, while Eric Tin­kler will start his new coach­ing life at Su­per­Sport United with a tricky fix­ture against Mamelodi Sun­downs in Tsh­wane.

It does not get any bet­ter for Tin­kler, who will have Kaizer Chiefs in his next game – a re­peat of sorts (for the for­mer Cape Town City coach) of a Chiefs ver­sus City MTN8 clash last sea­son.

Re­turnees AmaZulu will have an easy one against Free State Stars at home to gauge their readi­ness for the tough and de­mand­ing Premier­ship.

Usuthu last tasted top-flight foot­ball in the 2014/15 sea­son, when they were rel­e­gated to the Na­tional First Divi­sion.

Just like they did back in 2006 when they bought Dy­namos’ league sta­tus, they have come back via the back door again af­ter buy­ing Thanda Royal Zulu’s sta­tus.

But will they make their stay count this time and en­sure it lasts be­yond the first sea­son?

Or­lando Pi­rates will host Chippa United at Or­lando Sta­dium, while Ajax Cape Town are also at home to Golden Ar­rows.

The two fix­ures on the open­ing Sun­day will see Bloem­fontein Celtic face Chiefs and Plat­inum Stars host Mar­itzburg United.

Chiefs’ first home match prom­ises to be a cracker as they host United.

The high­lights in Septem­ber will be two coastal der­bies.

KwaZulu-Natal will come to a stand­still on Septem­ber 17, when Ar­rows host AmaZulu, while Ajax Cape Town will have the hon­our of host­ing the Cape Town derby in the last week of the month.

The first Soweto derby takes place at FNB Sta­dium on Novem­ber 4 with Chiefs as hosts.

Free State will only wit­ness its Bloem­fontein Celtic and Stars derby in De­cem­ber.

As has be­come tra­di­tion, the sea­son’s cur­tain-raiser, the MTN8 tour­na­ment, will kick off the cam­paign.


CHAM­PI­ONS Bid­vest Wits will start the de­fence of their ti­tle at home


NEW KID Benni McCarthy’s first game will be against cham­pi­ons Bid­vest Wits

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