|Lurking: Igesund and De Sa|
There is only one place to be this weekend. The Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday hosts the MTN8 final between unbeaten Kaizer Chiefs and resurgent arch-rivals Orlando Pirates. Stuart Baxter v VV will dominate the week for South Africa’s football-speaking majority.
To dare to predict the outcome of a game which sold out on Computicket in the space of for hours would be difficult, not to say deceptive… even dangerous. The AmaKhosi have played nine games this season, six in the PSL, and they’ve wwwwwwwwwwon them all. BuccaBucca fans will point out they are heading for a FIFTH successive cup final, an achievement as statistically improbable as it is laudable.
There will be 56,000 in Durban on Saturday enthusiastically pointing out the Forever Fearless revival of Reneilwe Letsholonyane or the Once Always option of starting with Kermit Erasmus or Lehlohonolo Majoro.
Me? I’m colour blind. Black and Gold? Black and White? It’s all the same to me, especially when your soft spot for rock-bottom AmaZulu leaves you feeling green about the gills.
More importantly perhaps, as Chiefs and Pirates take a week off league action for the R8m on offer from MTN, is what’s bubbling quietly beneath them in the PSL.
Obviously Gavin Hunt’s big spending Bidvest Wits and Pitso Mosimane’s champions Mamelodi Sundowns will enjoy their time off (Wits restart the PSL action on the 26th against AmaZulu) before resuming the battle for the title that REALLY matters.
But I am here to warn of two quiet revolutions going on in South African football. One involves the sheer youthful exuberance of Roger de Sa at Ajax Cape Town. The other, the hard-bitten, silver-lined experience of Gordon Igesund at SuperSport United.
On Saturday, former Pirates boss De Sa, with 19 academy graduates in his 23-man squad, kept his side unbeaten in second place, four points behind Chiefs, with a 2-1 win over Bloemfontein Celtic.
Did he boast about it? Did he roar a warning to the big guns? No, De Sa simply said: “If we are going to be serious League challengers then we have got to score that third and fourth goal and we need to learn to do that."
It was De Sa who got Pirates to their first THREE Cup finals, including the big one, the African Champions League. Now surrounded by the young and impressionable rather than the over-paid and sinister, he chides: "We gave away a silly goal. Bad defending and bad goalkeeping didn’t help. We should have killed them off.”
A lot further down the table lies the other threat to the big guns. The return of Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund was always going to be interesting. After an uncomfortable two years in charge of the national squad, he returns to his real speciality: winning PSL titles.
As the only man to do exactly that with FOUR different clubs, Igesund settled in to Cavin Johnson’s hot-seat at SuperSport United and immediately inspired a 3-1 win over Platinum Stars to keep the club out of the relegation zone after a difficult start.
Igesund purred: "All national coaches start out in club football. I’m just thrilled to be back. You miss the day to day running of the club; every morning you wake up and get excited about going to training.
“With the national team you have to get your players three days before a game; they come in from overseas, and you have to do a lot of work and then go and play. Now, I’m back to working daily with my players and building relationships.
"I am loving it, and I’m so excited to be back. They had no confidence, and they were demoralized after having played 5 games and only one win. You have to pick them up and lift their spirits, and that's how I felt when I got here.”
“We will get better as we go along. It’s only one win for us; we need to go forward now and try to pick up as many points as we can.”
Stuart Baxter and Vladimir Vermecovic will dominate the week. Mosimane and Hunt will gain a mention. But if we’re not talking about De Sa and Igesund by the end of the season, I’d be surprised.
SOCCERBALLZ! my innovative football show on www.ballz.co.za with Mark Fish airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' Youtube channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names.
My interview with Kermit Erasmus on Socerballz last week: