Monday, 9 March 2015

GOALLESS BORE: The TRUTH about the Soweto Derby: time to tell it like it is, South Africa

No goals: Baxter and Pirates caretaker Tinkler
THERE are two distinct approaches to South African football. That much was clear on Sunday morning when the newspapers dropped and we were able to truly assess the damage done to our game by yet another dreadful Soweto derby.

On the one hand we had Timothy Molobi in the City Press assuring us: “What a classic game! What a draw! Even though the match ended with zeroes on the board, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates supporters would have left the stadium a happy lot after what they saw on the pitch.”

Then, in both the Sunday World and the beneath the agonising cricket headlines in the Sunday Times, Tshepang Mailwane revealed the TRUTH: “Stuart Baxter and Eric Tinkler were not playing to win. This is why the Soweto Derby is no longer the entertaining clash it used to be.”

My quote of the day came from Baxter, who assured us: "This was the best derby the crowd will see in a long time. It was great for spectators. Transition after transition." 

But Stuart, 90,000 people don't go to a crunch battle of arch-rivals to see your bloody transitions. They go to see good attacking football, shots on target... and goals.

Anybody who actually appreciates football – and increasingly we get our fix from Spain, England and Germany where teams actually use strikers and play to win – knows that the greatest problem our game faces comes because so many people refuse to tell the truth even when it is staring them in the goalmouth.

Astute analysts know that Baxter, like our national coach Shakes Mashaba and his predecessors Gordon Igesund and Pitso Mosimane, are not the sharpest tacticians in the world. If they were, they’d probably work where their word is law and they can make their own decisions.

Instead, we live in fantasy football world where coaches turn up to find their latest signing is injured and unknown to them. In a world where the greasy palms of agents are more important than encouraging young talent or satisfying the fans. Where players move between Platinum Stars and Orlando Pirates without transfer fees, without argument.

This week, Kaizer Chiefs – 11 points clear in the PSL – will play Maritzburg United tomorrow night in front of a few thousands at the Harry Gwala Stadium. The chasing group - Wits, Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates – are also in action, attempting to keep the title chase alive in front of diminishing crowds.

Though Lux September and the PSL desperately attempt to keep it quiet, our shiny “best professional football league on the continent” is about to slip under 6,000 in terms of average attendances for the first time.

There may even be moments of real footballing excitement for the few who actually go to the stadium this week – Wits are at Amazulu and Chippa United travel to the Orlando Stadium tonight, both fascinating encounters – but for as long as we pretend our game is fit, healthy and thriving, South African football will struggle to catch up with the rest of the continent, let alone the world.

We have to accept both Baxter and Tinkler – still only a caretaker at Pirates despite a ten-game unbeaten run – were simply avoiding defeat rather than playing to win on Saturday. Chiefs barely bother to field a striker these days and never quite tell us why David Zulu and Katlego Mphela don’t feature more regularly.

Internationally, after the empty promises about Argentina, Bafana Bafana face Nigeria on March 29 with SAFA President Danny Jordaan telling us May Mahlangu, Kamohelo Mokotjo and Thulani Serero will all be considered for selection. But nobody has really explained why they didn’t play a part in a pointless Afcon 2015.

Politically, we have smug football writers decrying CAF president Issa Hayatou for being too old at 68 to continue to run an organisation he has dominated since 1988. Yet our own Irvin Khoza is 67 and has ruled our game with an iron fist since the early 1990s. And nobody quite knows how he manages it.

There are simply too many unanswered questions.  Too many half-truths and blatant lies. It starts with match reports and crowd figures. It ends with analysts being silenced and coaches being sidelined for telling the truth.

If you see the Soweto Derby as a fantastic game which entertained 90,000 people on Saturday, then I guess you think Mamelodi Sundowns will trounce TP Mazembe and Kaizer Chiefs will stuff Raja Casablanca in the next round of the African Champions League.

And you’d be the kind of person who honestly believes Bafana were just unlucky at Afcon, that goalkeepers are SUPPOSED to be changed every game and our most talented players are SUPPOSED to stand in line behind journeymen who barely get a regular game for their PSL clubs.

Surely, it’s time to tell it like it is?

1 comment:

  1. Your obsession with the iron duke is affecting your thinking and your objectivity.