Thursday, 14 August 2014

Two games in, and the PSL is already hard to Swallow. Especially for Brazilians.

Top man: Swallows boss Zeca Marques
FOOTBALL confounds. Absolute football confounds absolutely. And I am confounded.

What on earth are Zeca Marques' Moroka Swallows doing at the top of the PSL? How did Stuart Baxter and his depleted Kaizer Chiefs win their first three games of the season? When exactly did Moneyloadi Sundowns go from loan rangers to groan dangers?

It's been a helluva start to the PSL season. Masandawana can't win a game for love or money. The champions kicked off with an MTN 8 quarter-final defeat against Platinum Stars, who sold half their squad over the winter. Then they were held by modest Maritzburg United's late penalty before last night's crushing 1-0 defeat at Ajax Cape Town.

Yes, Roger de Sa's kids, nine of them fresh out of the academy and none over 25, dismantled Pitso Mosimane's millionaires, with their squad of 64 players being handed out around the country like confetti. Roger laughed: "I thought they coped quite well with the best the PSL has to offer."

Pitso took it on the chin. He generally does: "That is football. They'll look at the coach now. But all those crosses and nobody on the end of them… it's hard times here."

Fear not Masandawana fans. Sundowns may be playing like Brazilians (against Germany in the World Cup semi-final) but they will recover. They have too much quality to stay third-bottom of the PSL for long.

It's at the top of the table you have to raise hairy eyebrows. Before the season started Stuart Baxter, the firsts foreign coach to win a PSL title in his opening season in 2013, was under huge pressure. His loyal AmaKhosi were openly pessimistic about the new season with no big signings made (again) while Simphiwe Tshabalala and Bernard Parker were both out injured and Knowledge Musona was off fiddling with Hoffenheim in Germany and Granada in Spain.

Somehow, without their three major scorers from last season, Chiefs have won their opening three games with transfer-listed Mandla Masango scoring three and Reneilwe Letsholonwane two, including a cracker in an epic 2-1 win over Mpumalanga Black Aces last night.

But that's the new PSL trend. The rags to riches stories abound already. Aubrey Ngoma, making his debut on loan for Aces, produced an absolute scorcher to level at Mbombela, Ndumiso Mabena, another unwanted Pirate, scored two more last night to rocket to the top of the scorers charts and… and then there's Zeca.

He just wasn't supposed to beat Orlando Pirates and promoted Chippa United. But the Dube Birds have taken wing at the start of the marathon.

Hard to Swallows: the PSL table. Sundowns fans should view upside-down
Yup, the opening skirmishes of the PSL have been great. 12 goals in the opening round. 20 in the second. 32 goals in 16 games ain't a bad start. It's not just about goals, it's an attitude. Say it out loud: "We can't afford to lose" or "Win at all costs". You know the latter makes sense.

I have just one negative I feel I have to offer. While all this is going on, our newly appointed national coach Shakes Mashaba flew off to Cameroon with South Africa's Under 20s yesterday. Yes, he loves his AmaJitas.

But while he's off trying to qualify for the Under 20 AFCON and World Cup, our senior Bafana Bafana face Sudan away in barely a fortnight, unless Ebola scuppers the whole thing. Then we've got Nigeria in Cape Town.

And Shakes isn't even here to attend PSL games, talk to coaches, assess players first hand. It's not normal. Just like signing a deal with an unknown, unstarted SiyayaTV is not normal. Especially when the national broadcaster wasn't even involved in discussions.

It's all very strange. But for now, let's just keep enjoying the goals. The rise of Mabena, Masango and all those other unfashionable stars.

We'll worry about Bafana at the end of the month. A lot.

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