PI­RATES LOOK TO HAVE FUN CHASING SIL­VER­WARE

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - KAM­LESH GOSAI

IF IT’S true that teams play bet­ter when they’re hav­ing fun, then Or­lando Pi­rates should dish out a top per­for­mance in the Ned­bank Cup fi­nal against Su­pers­port United at Dur­ban’s Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium to­mor­row night.

In a sea­son where Pi­rates twice con­ceded six goals in league de­feats and fin­ished out­side of the top eight for the first time in the PSL era, one might strug­gle to find any­thing to cheer about. How­ever, Bucs coach Kjell Jonevret was like a kid at fair yes­ter­day. The Swede was daz­zled by the cup at­mos­phere and could hardly wait for to­mor­row’s 8.15pm kick-off as he joked with the me­dia and teased Su­perS­port as­sis­tant coach Kai­tano Tembo.

The venue will, in fact, be like a car­ni­val from 2pm, with or­gan­is­ers pulling out the stops with live mu­sic acts, in­ter­ac­tive game zones, fan parks, face paint­ing, tro­phy and au­to­graph photo booths, and football skill zones to cel­e­brate the 10th edi­tion of the coun­try’s premier knockout com­pe­ti­tion.

Jonevret wasn’t with Pi­rates dur­ing the dis­as­trous first half of the cam­paign and start of the sec­ond half when they were whipped 6-0 by Mamelodi Sun­downs and 6-1 by Su­perS­port. He was made well aware of those statis­tics af­ter his ap­point­ment and is un­der no il­lu­sions about how vi­tal it is for a club of Pi­rates’ stature to win sil­ver­ware.

In­stead of the con­stant re­minder of the need to win tro­phies lead­ing to a pres­sured en­vi­ron­ment, Jonevret fed off the pos­i­tive en­ergy and said he looked for­ward to a fun out­ing to win the tro­phy and give the Ghost some­thing to cel­e­brate for their 80th an­niver­sary.

“This is for the guys at the petrol sta­tions and the res­tau­rants. It is for them, who are work­ing so hard, and that’s what is re­ally im­por­tant. This is our last chance to win some­thing, but we don’t see it as pres­sure when ev­ery­one says we must win the cup. We get more and more en­ergy from it. A lot of things hap­pened at the club, up and down, mostly down, and now we have a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing and have some fun.”

The tim­ing of the cup, one month af­ter the league ended, is un­usual. Noth­ing could be done about it, Jonevret con­ceded, but again he put a pos­i­tive spin on the cir­cum­stances which sees them go into a match po­ten­tially less sharp than Su­perS­port, who have been ac­tive in the CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup, most re­cently this week when they drew 0-0 at home against DR Congo’s TP Mazembe..

“They have played a lot in CAF and we just trained, so I was a lit­tle worried if we could keep the pace up for four weeks with­out games, but we have no prob­lems. Ev­ery­one is fresh and we rested the in­juries, so it’ll be okay,” Jonevret said.

Hav­ing noth­ing else be­sides the cup to fo­cus on could even work in their favour, added the coach. “For four weeks ev­ery­one worked hard, and I can see they be­lieve in them­selves more and they want to win. It wasn’t like that when I came. The at­ti­tude has changed and that gives hope. With the league it can be tough to fo­cus. The cup fi­nal is at the end of the sea­son and I’m 100 per­cent sure ev­ery­one is to­tally fo­cused.”

De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Su­perS­port have as much mo­ti­va­tion as Pi­rates to win sil­ver­ware. Be­sides want­ing to make his­tory and de­fend the ti­tle for the first time un­der the Ned­bank spon­sor­ship, it would serve as a fit­ting farewell to de­part­ing coach Stu­art Bax­ter.

Tembo, how­ever, down­played it by say­ing that “the club is more im­por­tant than the in­di­vid­ual and it’s im­por­tant to stay fo­cused”, es­pe­cially given that this is their sec­ond fi­nal of the sea­son, hav­ing ear­lier fin­ished run­ners-up in the Telkom Knockout.

Jonevret, very much in fun mode, quipped that Su­perS­port would do bet­ter to “give Bax­ter a bunch of flow­ers” be­cause Pi­rates will take the sil­ver­ware.

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