Saturday, 9 January 2016

Point taken: but perhaps South Africa's footballing giants need a little bit more than a pair of droopy draws

Of buses and coaches: Mosimane and Komphela
Drawlando Pirates. AmaDrawsi. Just had to make the point. Between them, the two Soweto giants have drawn more than they've won.

And there was not a lot to shout about as the PSL finally cranked back in to action with a pair of droopy draws for South Africa's biggest clubs.

Those long breaks which reduced most clubs to two games in two months certainly don’t help. First the U23s stopped the league for three weeks. Then the Telkom Cup and one league game before the three-week Festive Season.

Fortunately Bafana Bafana didn’t qualify for CHAN, or we’d have to consider a further break.

But hey. We were excited. Local football is back! But when Orlando Pirates failed to raise the Ghost against Platinum Stars the old problems were back too. Coach Eric Tinkler came out with his usual line after the 1-1 draw saying: “There’s no way I’ll resign. I’m not a quitter.”

Then: "If you look at the chances created, we are top. There were 60pts to play for before this game and we are going for all of them. It's difficult to get them but we have that belief"

"Do I feel the pressure? Yes. Nobody wants to fail. I came here to succeed, to win things. A lot of it also has to come from the players.”

All fair enough. All more or less what we’ve heard before. The social network Buccaneers have their knives out; they are after Tinkler’s head but with Irvin Khoza apparently unavailable, it’s unlikely the guillotine will fall soon.

The interesting bit will come when Pirates, now released from African tours after losing the final of the CAF Confederations Cup, get the jump on the four clubs that qualified for continental competition this season.

Champions Kaizer Chiefs and runners-up Mamelodi Sundowns are our African Champions League entrants, and with the league not even at the halfway point, the fixture congestion will surely bite if they get to the group stages.

But looking at their clash on Saturday night, that might not happen. Like it didn’t last season.

They met on Saturday night, the big two. And we were treated to one of the worst first halves I can remember - barely a chance worth mentioning - and though things improved in the second stanza, it was hardly the kind of stuff to frighten the likes of TP Mazembe.

Afterwards, bus-parking coaches Steve Komphela and Pitso Mosimane tried to persuade us it had been a fascinating clash of the giants.

Mosimane described the last 10 minutes as “like pound-for-pound heavyweight boxing, going for the kill” and Komphela assured us both sides tried to snatch it as “the game opened up”.

Fair enough. Tebogo Langerman’s 35m effort hit the post with Reyaad Pieterse stranded. George Maluleke made a hash of his one-on-one which might have been off-side. Khama Billiat forced a good save out of Pieterse on the near post.

But in truth it was dire. Komphela, as Pitso said post-match, sent his team out to defend too deeply. Often he had nine behind the ball, and there was much talk about Christmas being spent studying tactics.

That may or may not be true. What is obvious though is the utter lack of quality on show. While the faithful commentators assured us it was “like a chess game” and “end to end stuff” we watched, head in hands, as crosses were over-hit, control was lost and long balls were resorted to.

Remember, Chiefs and Sundowns are probably the best two teams in the country. Though we are not given figures as they did in the Premier League last week, they probably have the highest wage bills too.

But to see Maluleke’s glaring duff, Wayne Arendse’s free header missed, under-used Sula Matovu subbed after coming on as a sub, both defences hacking the ball long, was neither edifying nor entertaining.

The commentators won’t tell you this. Neither will the coaches. Nor will many in the media, though SuperSport Analyst Zane Moosa had the courage to call Chiefs AmaDrawsi at the finish, as I suggested to him weeks ago.

Truth is, the PSL is slipping behind. We don’t pay for big name foreigners during transfer windows (as I mentioned last week), we have long gaps in our fixture list, the pitch at Soccer City, as Pitso pointed out, was “just sand”.

None of these things help our game, with Bafana Bafana facing two make or break AFCON 2017 qualifiers against Cameroon at the end of March.

By then, I suspect long breaks will be long forgotten. The pressure will be on, particularly at Chiefs, Sundowns, Wits and Ajax.

And, hopefully, the standard will improve. Before fatigue sets in.

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