Monday, 17 September 2012

Hail of fame: Baxter's AmaKhosi ready to ride the storm

Hail the Chiefs: fans face charges for ice dancing
ABANDONED. It’s not the most cheerful word in the English language. It brings to mind tiny lifeboats lost in a stormy sea, babies left in hospital doorways.

And it’s not the happiest word in football either – especially if you’re a Kaizer Chiefs fan waiting for Wednesday night’s replay of their abandoned PSL clash with Leopards at Soccer City (kick-off 7.30pm, live on SuperSport4).

Oh, how the AmaKhosi will suffer if they don’t claim all three points. There they were, cruising at 2-0 after 34 minutes on Saturday night, when the early-summer Highveld storm hit Johannesburg. One minute Chiefs were stroking the ball around a green sward, the next hail had turned the pitch in to a winter wonderland.

The ice had barely melted by the time Stuart Baxter came out on the club’s official website insisting: “We will show the same winning intent.”

But there was no question of play continuing on Saturday when the clouds broke. Daniel Bennett, the nation’s top referee, led the charge to the sanctuary of the dressing rooms, declaring the surface unfit and potentially dangerous.

As unruly fans drew an unnecessary PSL disciplinary charge for larking about in the ice, match commissioner Stan Swart was a crest-fallen man. He said: “We tried clearing the lines but that didn’t work. Then we tried to get the pitch remarked but it was too wet. We had no choice but to ask the teams to replay the game.”

And of course, under SAFA law 8.14 – a rule followed in most FIFA nations – that means the match will be the full 90 minutes, started again at 0-0. Had they managed to get back on the pitch and finish the game on Saturday, they would have restarted from 2-0 up in the 35th minute. Bemused Kaizer Chiefs fans are furious.

A cunning Leopards sangoma may be cackling away hysterically somewhere up north, but in Soweto everybody wants to know what happens to the two marvellous goals scored by Bernard Parker and Kingston Nkhatha before the hail came down.

The sad truth is that Parker’s magnificent free-kick has now been scrubbed from the records. And ‘Cijimpi’ Nkhatha’s  second, neatly constructed, will not feature either.

Though television producers are free to screen Parker’s strike as a contender for Goal of the Month, it won’t count if Parker – who scored four against Amazulu in the opening game of the season and two for Bafana against Mozambique a week ago – is in the running for PSL top scorer.

So Chiefs have to do it all again on Wednesday, knowing the Orlando Pirates – under controversial new coach Roger De Sa – had seen off Platinum Stars 1-0 thanks to a disputed Andile Jali penalty and an early red card.

That puts Pirates level with Chiefs on seven points, one short of promoted shock-troops AmaTuks, Maritzburg United and Free State Stars. Moroka Swallows, after their shock loss against Pretoria’s Clever Boys on Friday night – are on six points with SuperSport United and Bloemfontein Celtic.

Hard as it is to find a positive side to this awful word abandoned, there is one consolation for deflated Chiefs fans. Eric “Tower” Mathoho may be available for the replay.

He was ruled out of Saturday night’s clash following the death of his uncle, David Galananzhele Mathoho, who passed away last Wednesday after a long illness. Mathoho was given permission by the club to attend the funeral.

Siphiwe Tshabalalala, rested after his Bafana duties against Brazil and Mozambique, could also be ready by Wednesday night.

A frustrated Baxter said on “It is difficult when a game is postponed and rescheduled - it changes our entire program - but as professionals we will have to prepare now for Wednesday. Leopards were always going to be tougher and they will not be different come Wednesday as for us we need to go out and finish the business.

“We would have loved to continue playing after the storm but then it was difficult to do so as the hail could not be removed without removing the lines.

“The players are obviously disappointed that the game was postponed but it was due to natural cause. I am confident that they will show the same intent on the pitch.”

As for Tshabalala and Mathoho, Baxter said: “We will make a decision this week but I was pleased with what I saw in the 30 minutes or so that we played and we will have to build on that.”

But anything less than victory on Wednesday will leave the Amakhosi with understandable feelings of injustice.

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