Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A fond farewell to AmaZulu... or can Steve Barker's jolly green giants produce a miracle?

Living on the edge: Mabulelo "OJ" Mabizela
WHILE the PSL seems intent on promoting the Carling Black Label gimmick cup which takes place before NEXT SEASON, some of us are still concerned about THIS SEASON.

As our domestic league hits the final two rounds, the battle for second place is absorbing enough but we have to ask “What happened to AmaZulu’s Great Escape?” at the foot of the league?

The mid-season break saw our historic men in green firmly rooted to the trap-door with just one win when Stevie Barker left AmaTuks for Amazulu. Most of us felt he was jumping out of the frying pan in to the fire.

But the 5-2 win over SuperSport United appeared to signal a major revival and until the narrow – but aimless – 1-0 defeat against champions Kaizer Chiefs there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Needing another win against Gordon Igesund’s men on Saturday – with fellow relegation candidates Free States Stars and Moroka Swallows picking up huge three pointers – Barker’s men simply let all the hope slip away in a 3-1 defeat which revealed the fatal flaws lurking in the Usuthu dressing room.

A quick glance at the Q4 table shows just how well the relegation fighters - particularly Free State Stars - have done, but for AmaZulu, it looks like it won't be enough.

How they stand: the Q4 tabl
Having already got rid of one club captain, ­Carlington Nyadombo, amid allegations of bad muti and poor time-keeping, the new skipper Robyn Johannes found himself confronted by the controversial Mabulelo Mabizela in the tunnel after the match.

OJ, the man who once made waves at Tottenham Hotspur before “home sickness” lured him back, has all the talent in the world. But he’d just picked up his fourth yellow card of the season – he’ll be banned for the vital clash against AmaTuks tomorrow night (Wednesday the 6th) - and been fingered for Jeremy Brockie’s vital second goal.

The feeling was OJ, the 34-year-old who has scored four vital goals in 12 games so far in green,  should have cleared before the Kiwi netted to make it 2-1. But whether that was the cause of the altercation remains unclear. All we know is captain Johannes threw a water bottle at Mabizela, and nearly hit Asive Langwe, perhaps indicative of AmaZulu's accuracy this season.

A fight broke out in the tunnel, and Sedat Ouro-Akoriko, scorer of AmaZulu’s only goal on the night, had to separate the pair before Barker and marketing manager Lunga Sokhela locked the entire squad in the dressing room for an hour.

Steve Barker, whose uncle Clive had a bit of a roller-coaster with OJ at Mpumalanga Black Aces, was quoted in March saying: “Sometimes he gets too involved in the game and also too emotional. We can't be over-robust and over-emotional in games that will, at the end of the day, cost us. We need to be to calm and we cannot lose focus now.”

Today, Barker justified the bust-up. He said: "Emotions are running high here, and we are fighting for our lives. Everybody wanted to win against SuperSport. I would be upset if players weren't emotionally engaged: if they just went to the change room and sat down and accepted the defeat, I would be more worried.

"This incident shows passion, it's good sign. At least players are showing that they were gutted by the defeat, but we need to stand up and be strong against AmaTuks."

Sadly that has come to pass. With just two games left for the clubs battling relegation, Amazulu now need to beat AmaTuks and Maritzburg United on Saturday while hoping Moroka Swallows slip up at Nedbank Cup finalists Ajax Cape Town tomorrow and Bloemfontein Celtic on the final day.

With former AmaZulu boss Craig Rosslee now at Dobsonville and picking up points, it’s a forlorn hope for a club formed way back in 1932.

Those with an acute sense of South African football history will hope troublesome toddler Chippa United (29 points, 14 coaches following the departure of caretaker Mich D'Avray over the weekend) are dragged in to the battle – they’ve got Aces and Chiefs to finish – but the truth is AmaZulu (24 points) are favourites for the drop with Swallows (27 points) competing in the play-offs.

For a club with such a history, for a club once so prominent – I remember those days in the early 1980s when KwaMashu and uMlazi turned up in numbers to worship the likes of Joel Faya and Henry Cele - that’s a desperately gloomy prospect.

Some may take solace from Lamontville Golden Arrows - led by former Charlton Athletic and Bafana striker Shaun Bartlett - clinching the automatic promotion spot in the NFD on Sunday. But given Arrows link to certain PSL officials, that's hardly a consolation for real football fans in KwaZulu Natal in my book.

With Orlando Pirates still involved in the CAF Confederation Cup, Mamelodi Sundowns look set to claim second position - though Pirates won't mind too much if they get past Guinea champions AS Kaloum and in to the group stages.

But perhaps the most bizarre problem we ALL face is this: why did the PSL spend Monday launching the distinctly dodgy Carling Black Label Cup between Pirates and champions Kaizer Chiefs with the PSL headed for the final showdowns and the Nedbank Cup final - which desperately needs a push - still to come?

Answers on a postcard please. The PSL, who seem to care as much about their sponsors as they do about the dwindling number of fans, seem to have no explanation at all.

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