Kick Off - - INSIDE -

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.

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