|Cup jinx: Teko Modise, 29, has yet to win a major trophy|
AFTER two enthralling semis there is only one way to tag the Telkom Knock-out showdown on December 1 between miraculous Mamelodi Sundowns and blooming Bloemfontein Celtic: it’s the Teko Modise final.
On Saturday night, Msandawana defied their status as the PSL’s worst side this season, holding off Gavin Hunt’s bus-parking, bar-busting SuperSport United 1-0 in Polokwane.
The Peter Mokaba Stadium was treated to a cup tie of the highest order as Johan Neeskens prowled the touchline knowing that, despite his legendary Dutch pedigree, he should have left Chloorkop weeks ago.
After just 15 minutes, the enigmatic Eleazar Rodgers, picked up by Sundowns when Santos were relegated last year, latched on to the end of the improving Anthony Laffor’s cross to score the only goal of the game.
From there on in, it was a case of draw-specialist Hunt – with a win, a loss and eight wins in the PSL – trying to unpark his bus and find a route to an equaliser against relegation-haunted opposition.
It so nearly came in the dying moments with SuperSport hitting the bar and having a penalty appeal turned down, but a relieved Neeskens said afterwards: “I must give my boys a big compliment, I think they deserved it. We saw an exciting game with both teams competitive. They have only lost one game in the league.
“In the second half they put more people upfront, so it was difficult to defend - they were unlucky to hit the crossbar. I think it is a terrific result and it will give everybody a boost.”
The bustling ball of energy which is Hunt was predictably less enthusiastic: “I’m disappointed not to reach the final,” he growled, “Decisions haven’t been going for us lately. We came so close, we should have had a penalty.
“It was an exciting semi-final. But we have to pick ourselves up now and get on with it.”
If Polokwane was exciting, the Charles Mopeli Stadium in Qua-Qua was soon renamed Kwaaa-Kwaaa as local rivals Bloemfontein Celtic took the lead twice in normal time (Letladi Madubanya and sub Lerato Manzini) only for Free State stars to peg them back with two well taken goals from Dove Wome.
In the end, it was the irrepressible Botswana striker Joel Mogorosi who decided the match in extra-time, his long-range header just beaten the out-stretched arms of Zambia’s AFCON winning goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene in the Stars goal.
Mweene, injured when teenagers stoned the Zambia bus after their midweek 1-0 win over Bafana Bafana at Soccer City, said: "I was fit. Luckily I was not too badly hurt. They were only youngsters, but these things should not happen. Thank God it wasn't serious. But I was ready to play and I'm disappointed not to make the final."
With head coach Clinton Larsen banned after his red card against Maritzburg United, Boebie Solomons took the post-match plaudits for Celtic, beaming: “They kept coming back at us but we never gave up. They equalised twice but we always came up with another goal.”
For Stars boss Steve Komphela, the only man in South African football capable of talking Gavin Hunt under the table, it was nearly too much: “I am so disappointed. Football is such a strange game. It makes you so excited.
“My belly was full of tension, it was so full I could burst. So I had to kick a chair to relieve the stress.”
And with Katlego Cambridge Mashego breaking his leg in two places, Komphela said: “Football is like a war, there are casualties. There are no prisoners of war. We will miss him.”
And so to the final on December 1. The venue has yet to be decided but with Charles Mopeli not attracting many pre-match pop concerts, the surface was good, the crowd loud… so perhaps we could look forward to another Kwaaa-Kwaaa showdown. The Orlando Stadium remains favourite, though Moses Mabhida and Nelson Mandela Bay have both been mooted.
And in the background looms the figure of Teko Modise, the Sundowns midfielder who holds the dubious distinction of being the best modern South African footballer NOT to have won a trophy.
Modise was picked up by SuperSport United after winning the Mvela Golden League Player of the Season while playing for City Pillars during the 2005/2006 season. After two seasons with Matsatsantsa a Pitori when they finished 6th and 7th in the PSL, he was spotted by Orlando Pirates.
But while he was strutting his stuff for the Buccaneers and winning Player of the Year awards in 2008 and 2009, Teko had to be content with seeing SuperSport United win three titles in a row.
Then, when he left for Sundowns after a fall-out with Ruud Krol, the Buccaneers won two successive trebles after Modise's depature. Meanwhile Daine Klate, in direct contrast, had won FIVE titles on the trot with SuperSport and Pirates. All of which led, predictably, to talk of a Modise trophy jinx.
After his side crashed out of this season’s MTN8 against Moroka Swallows, Modise said: "It's very disappointing. We can't be talking about this same thing year after year."
This time, with Modise back to something approaching his best, won’t just be about Msandawana and Phunya Sele Sele. It will be the Teko Modise final. And I think the trophy-winning jinx may soon be at an end.