TS Galaxy’s in­cred­i­ble Ned­bank Cup win

TS Galaxy did the im­pos­si­ble when they beat Kaizer Chiefs, be­com­ing the only first divi­sion side to win the Ned­bank Cup – here’s how it hap­pened and where they’re headed

DRUM - - Contents - BY THOLAKELE MNGANGA

ONE year: that’s how long it took for TS Galaxy to do the near im­pos­si­ble. The team made his­tory by be­com­ing the first Na­tional First Divi­sion ( NFD) side to win a cup ti­tle in a 1–0, David-ver­susGo­liath match against Kaizer Chiefs. Even more im­pres­sive is that TS Galaxy only joined the NFD a year ago.

WRIT­TEN IN THE STARS

Con­sid­er­ing the team’s re­cent run, it didn’t come as much of a sur­prise to Chiefs fans when they lost their last game of the sea­son – but it hurt that Chiefs lost against less than il­lus­tri­ous op­po­nents.

The Glamour Boys fin­ished ninth on the Premier Soccer League (PSL) log af­ter win­ning just nine of 30 games this sea­son. This is the team’s fourth year with­out a tro­phy. Mean­while TS Galaxy play­ers looked like sea­soned pros when they walked out onto the field at Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium. Their run­ning and press­ing game lim­ited Chiefs’ at­tack­ing op­tions and the TS Galaxy play­ers dom­i­nated play through­out the 90 min­utes.

Zakhele Lepasa, who is on loan from Or­lando Pi­rates, se­cured and con­verted a penalty to win the ti­tle for TS Galaxy.

“It’s not sunk in yet,” head coach Dan Male­sela tells DRUM a day af­ter win­ning the big­gest tro­phy of his ca­reer. “Peo­ple are happy for us and all of that and maybe for me it will sink in later.”

Ti­mothy Maranda, an ex­pert on the NFD, says TS Galaxy’s achievemen­t isn’t a sur­prise. “If you look at the pedi­gree of the coach and the qual­ity of the play­ers, they showed they weren’t there by fluke and any­one who un­der­mined them was al­ways in for a rude awak­en­ing,” he says.

In a quest for the Ned­bank Cup ti­tle, TS Galaxy de­feated teams such as Ajax Cape Town, Jomo Cos­mos and Golden Ar­rows. Maranda says the play­ers went into the clash know­ing “they had noth­ing to lose in the fi­nal”.

ALL FOR ONE

For owner Tim Sukazi, the ti­tle isn’t just for his play­ers but the fans and sup­port­ers too. “We haven’t run this club on per­sonal ac­co­lades,” he says. “It’s al­ways been a col­lec­tive. We have play­ers, sup­port­ers who are the big­gest spir­i­tual drive be­hind the team and we’re very happy with this achievemen­t.”

So in­spired were the play­ers by their sup­port­ers’ back­ing they wore an Nde­bele-in­spired jer­sey for the fi­nal and even had Dr Es­ther Mahlangu at­tend the game as a thank you for her

con­stant sup­port.

“The jer­sey we wore was a recog­ni­tion of the peo­ple of KwaNde­bele who sup­ported us since day one. We have bro­ken records as a club be­cause we’ve av­er­aged 10 000 peo­ple at our home games in the NFD and this is some­thing even PSL teams have strug­gled with.

“We deemed it nec­es­sary to recog­nise our peo­ple on this big oc­ca­sion,” Sukazi says.

CON­TI­NEN­TAL AM­BI­TIONS

Along with win­ning the tro­phy and R7 mil­lion in prize money, TS Galaxy will also be play­ing in the CAF Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup next sea­son but the team’s big­gest priority will be to se­cure pro­mo­tion to the Absa Premier­ship.

“When we got into the pro­fes­sional ranks our priority was to get the club into the PSL within three years. We never had a cup vic­tory as a priority,” Sukazi ad­mits, but he’s grate­ful for their success. “This is some­thing that has cat­a­pulted us to new heights.”

Maranda warns the two com­pe­ti­tions are go­ing to pose a “big prob­lem” for TS Galaxy.

“Can they jug­gle a com­pe­ti­tion like CAF, where they travel long dis­tances for days at a time, along with try­ing to keep the core of the team? Once you’ve played so well peo­ple ex­pect you to play in the same man­ner and qual­ity week in and week out.”

For Sukazi such prob­lems are a wel­come headache. He’s “look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge as it’s an op­por­tu­nity to ex­hibit the South African style of foot­ball”.

Sukazi and his man­age­ment team will be work­ing over­time in try­ing to en­sure they keep the ma­jor­ity of their best play­ers.

Striker Zakhele Lepasa, who clinched the Ned­bank Cup player of the tour­na­ment award, is ex­pected to re­turn to Pi­rates af­ter scor­ing nine goals for TS Galaxy since his loan move in Jan­uary.

Other key play­ers could also be re­cruited by teams look­ing to bol­ster their sides.

“The fear of play­ers leav­ing doesn’t worry me,” Sukazi says. “All I know is TS Galaxy next sea­son must be stronger than the TS Galaxy we saw on Satur­day. It’s also not in the cul­ture of this club to stand in play­ers’ way and refuse them a chance to bet­ter their lives.”

DAN DANCE EF­FECT

Af­ter a to-and-fro re­la­tion­ship with Chippa United, which saw him sacked just three games into the sea­son in his sec­ond spel l in charge, coach Dan “Dance” Male­sela ( 53) has fi­nally set­tled in at TS Galaxy.

He made his­tory in the win over Chiefs as he be­came the first NFD coach to win a cup ti­tle.

Male­sela is hum­ble about his success. “I’m ex­cited this has hap­pened be­cause there are so many doubt­ing Thomases in the world,” he says.

“I never wanted to prove a point. I want peo­ple to see my abil­i­ties and I’m grate­ful I work with peo­ple who un­der­stand I’m able to de­liver cer­tain things.”

Sukazi heaps praise on the well-liked coach. “He is a very good coach, highly tal­ented and he’s a good reader of the game and a very wise man gen­er­ally,” he says when de­scrib­ing the for­mer Or­lando Pi­rates player. Male­sela be­lieves Sukazi cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment in which they were on the same page about where they wanted to take the club. “It has been smooth to work with him be­cause we’re in agree­ment most of the time about things.” Sukazi adds that the “sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment” has bought the best out of Male­sela as a coach. “Many ar­gued that his style of foot­ball, which re­quires a lot of ball pos­ses­sion, wouldn’t work. He has proven them wrong against the mighty Kaizer Chiefs.” He adds the coach plays the kind of foot­ball “we be­lieve in at TS Galaxy”. Sukazi con­grat­u­lates his coach for turn­ing around their for­tunes in the space of nine months. “This is all credit to him be­cause he’s a hard worker.”

Dan Male­sela won the big­gest tro­phy of his ca­reer af­ter lead­ing TS Galaxy to vic­tory in the Ned­bank Cup fol­low­ing a 1–0 win against the for­mi­da­ble Kaizer Chiefs in the fi­nal.

LEFT: Sizwe Mdlinzo and club boss Tim Sukazi cel­e­brate at Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium in Dur­ban. BE­LOW: Striker Zakhele Lepasa se­cured the ti­tle for TS Galaxy in the fi­nal.

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