The Premier Soccer League 2016/17 season was a weird old campaign wasn’t it? You had a brand new league winner in Bidvest Wits. You had a newly formed team taking the spoils in the Telkom Knockout, and a coach – Stuart Baxter – that was in charge of Nedbank Cup champions as well as the national team. You cannot script some of the drama that happens each season and I expect nothing less in the coming 2017/18 campaign. That said, my heart, like most football followers, is crying for the return to strength of the two most prominent teams in the country: Soweto giants, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
It isn’t about being a fan of either one.
Most of you would like your favourite teams to return to glory. But the league does lose a bit of shine when Chiefs and Pirates lose their lustre. I have lost my ability to go to a friend’s braai without the inevitable question, “What’s happening with Pirates?” from some anguished fan holding a glass of slow-matured drink, whose ice has long melted. As soon as news leaks of what I do for a living, a few hunched, forlorn-looking men, and sometimes women, snake over to my corner to enquire about the prospects of their team. I try to leave them with a satisfactory answer – a PR-esque, wishy-washy piece of recycled garble resembling: “Things will turn around because sport goes in cycles; the Soweto teams are too big to stay mediocre for long.”
But they can tell by my anguished battle
to avoid eye-contact and the (now very wellpracticed) two-foot shuffle away from the braai area to “take a call” that in truth things may not turnaround unless drastic action is taken by the respective teams. After the last shindig, where I had to moonwalk away from the conversation, I decided to make a public plea on behalf of the neutrals to both Soweto clubs to get themselves into competitive shape this off-season. The Buccaneers have perhaps been the more dubious than their offspring, Amakhosi. Everything they have tried in what is supposed to be a celebratory 80th anniversary year has turned into a shambles. The list of humiliating incidents dates back to when Muhsin Ertugral had a physical tussle with Edwin Gyimah, a combo you could tell would end with one shoving his fist down the other one’s throat. On it went. SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns put six past the Buccaneers at various stages in the campaign. There was a point where Pirates, who finished 11th overall and won just six league games all season, were so poor that they could not tell the difference between a shot at goal and a kick up the bum. Something needs to change and it starts by getting dedicated personnel that want to die for the jersey. The Thamsanqa Sangweni capture could be the catalyst. Sangwenis tend to do well with the skull and cross bones on their chest.
As for Chiefs, they have also had their
problems since their clearance sale of the last two years. One feels that if you’re going to replenish your stock, you do so by introducing exciting new and better products. So far precious little suggests that has happened since the infamous departures of Tefu Mashamaite, Mandla Masango and co. It is also Steve Komphela’s turn to sit in the backseat of the Last Chance Taxi. The clue to success usually lies in the shrewdness of the signings. Wits are perfecting the art, although with Steven Pienaar and Daylon Claasen, it seems they are overicing the cake. Chiefs ought to be fighting for marquee players like Pienaar, even if there are doubts about whether he will succeed on his return back to the PSL at 35. There will always be doubts, but there won’t always be a player as experienced and knowledgeable as he is available on a free transfer. Your fans need you to get it right. You owe it to them to do so.