Monday, 28 October 2013

BIGGER GAME NEXT WEEK: the ultimate Soweto Derby verdict from Orlando Pirates boss Roger de Star

The one that got away: Kingston Nkhatha
A single SMS from Orlando Pirates boss Roger de Sa says it all about Saturday’s controversial Soweto derby: “Like before. Bigger game next week.”

With Saturday night’s African Champions League final first leg looming, Kaizer Chiefs fans can breathe a huge sigh of relief. Kingston Nkhatha’s off-side equaliser  – clearly scored with a little help from linesman Enoch Molefe’s unflagging support – will not be the subject of intense scrutiny for the rest of the week.

Roger and his Buccaneers have bigger fish to fry.

The final against champions and seven-time African champions Al Ahly – this Saturday in Orlando and the next Saturday in Egypt – is all that matters to the Buccaneers.

Roger is far more interested in picking out the raft of veteran Ah Ahly players who have said they will retire after the showdown, and in the news that their goalkeeper Sherif Ekrami stands accused of “faking injury” during Egypt’s lamentable 6-1 World Cup qualifying defeat against Ghana a fortnight ago.

That’s why Roger didn’t even both getting involved in the off-side debate while twitter got itself in a twist of “Enoch, Enoch. Who’s There? Kingston Nkhatha” jokes on the internet and the role referee Victor Hlungwayo played in the PSL encounter.

It’s not like refereeing controversy is new to the Soweto Derby. This year alone, we have had Major’s off-side effort in the Carling Cup final and Morgan Gould’s penalised “push” in the MTN8 semi-final.

Instead, Roger chooses to highlight the positive, saying: "Hopefully we can do our nation proud on Saturday – I’m even hoping to see a lot of yellow jerseys at Orlando, supporting us!”

Getting the message: Roger's SMS on Saturday

With Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter, incredibly, admitting: “If either side had gone for broke, they would have claimed the points,” we had Roger accepting: “We’re happy enough with a draw. It was a fair result from where I was.

"Both teams had chances. They played their game on the counter and we played our passing game, sometimes not as fluidly as usual, but we had our moments.

"It's not a bad result for us, away from home. Maybe next time we will play with fresh legs.”

And really, that’s the point. Orlando Pirates completely outplayed the double-winning South African champions for the first 25 minutes, playing good football.

But those endless flights to the heart of Africa took their toll and by the end, Pirates were happy to accept the Nkhatha injustice and settle for a point which, deceptively, leaves them bottom of the PSL, level with Golden Arrows on four points.

Of course, if they win their five games in hand, they’d go four points clear of current leaders SuperSport United and Moroka Swallows, but that’s for later.

For now, this week, this day, this moment, Roger and his over-worked squad have only one thing in mind. And it’s this: “We haven’t got that star on our shirt yet. That is our priority. That has always been our main aim.”

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