Sunday, 22 December 2013

No Pirates, No Chiefs, No Sundowners. Gordon Igesund's African Nations Championship plans in disarray

Trouble brewing: Gordon Igesund's Cup of
Coffee approach may not work this time

The traditional Christmas “ho, ho, ho” has been notably absent in the Igesund household since Friday.

Bafana Bafana head coach Gordon Igesund’s preparations for the African Nations Championship were thrown in to disarray at the end of last week when the PSL shook up their January fixtures, a move which is likely to leave hosts South Africa with a severely depleted squad.

Igesund, who’s never been one to mince his words, is supposed to name his 23-man squad for the CHAN tournament tomorrow. He growled: “There is nothing we can do. I have to prepare for this tournament not knowing who I can pick. It’s not an ideal situation.”

The CHAN tournament – limited to players from the domestic leagues around Africa – should have been a showcase for South African football’s resurgence and the PSL, recognised as one of the most lucrative leagues on the continent.

Bafana will play all their Group A games at the Cape Town Stadium, starting with Mozambique on January 11, then Mali on the 15th and Nigeria on the 19th. The final is scheduled for Cape Town again on February 1.

With Orlando Pirates reaching the African Champions League Final against Egypt’s Al Ahly, the tournament was seen as perfectly timed for Igesund to continue the nation’s footballing revival after the rousing 1-0 win over world No 1 Spain.

Instead, it appears Bafana will have little chance against the likes of Nigeria, Libya, Congo and Ghana in a 16-team tournament which is NOT being played on FIFA dates, allowing clubs to withdraw their players at will.

Igesund explains: “Look, we had come to a compromise. There was the orginal agreement where I was told I couldn’t pick players from Pirates, Ajax Cape Town, SuperSport United and AmaZulu because they would be playing league games.

“Now we have these new fixtures and I can’t even comment on it.”

The PSL fixtures now rule out participation from the PSL’s top two sides, Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs, which this statement of explanation offered on Friday: “Due to the heavy backlog created by the progression of Orlando Pirates in the Champion League, it was decided postponed matches would be played in January to avoid fixture congestion.

“In addition, both Chiefs and SuperSport will be playing in the 2014 CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup in February.”

Dominic Chimhavi, the SAFA spokesman, clearly aligns himself with Igesund: “We expect the original agreement to stand and we don’t expect anybody to abrogate it. Only Pirates, Amazulu, Ajax and SuperSport should be affected.

“This is the second biggest tournament on the continent as as hosts, we have to use our best players on home soil.”

With a friendly against Botswana including a three-day camp planned to culminate on Saturday, Igesund said: “I submitted a list of 23 players to the Danny Jordaan last week. He went into a meeting with the PSL and I’m waiting to hear the outcome of that. I need clarity, but from what I can tell, there has been a compromise. It’s been a big challenge because I’ve already changed my team five or six times.”

If the PSL refuse to relent, Igesund could turn to a few of the old guard – particularly Matthew Booth and Moeneeb Josephs, who have helped make third-placed BidestWits the best defence in the PSL this season.

But dreams of a super-team from the top echelon of the PSL appear to be in tatters. Still, it could be worse. Last I heard, Steve Keshi’s Nigeria haven’t even got kit to play in at CHAN.

BOLLOCKZ! my own football show on, airs every Thursday from 9am. See the Ballz channel on for our growing collection of interviews with the big names in South African football.

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and how we are doing in using @thumperpigeon's R5,000 to make money for the Ballz charity WINGZ OF CHANGE.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

EXCLUSIVE: IF THEY WANT ME TO GO, WHO'S SAFE? Orlando Pirates boss Roger de Sa on three finals, Dauda and CHAN

Roger that: De Sa will not quit
ROGER DE SA responded to demands for his head today with characteristic aplomb, saying: “If they want me to go, who’s safe?”

Talking on my football show BOLLOCKZ! on this morning (see video below), the Orlando Pirates coach insisted he was “satisfied” with his club’s unique achievement of reaching THREE cup finals before Christmas.

And the 49-year-old former international goalkeeper insists he aims to reach ALL FOUR finals on offer this season – while lifting his side off the foot of the PSL as they make up a huge shortfall in fixtures after their African Champions League crusade.

Following Saturday’s defeat in the Telkom KO in Mbombela the social networks have been awash with calls for De Sa’s resignation with the 2-1 loss coming on top of defeat in the MTN8 and African Champions League finals.

Though he picked up over R13m in prize money for reaching those three finals, De Sa accepts: “Look, you’re never going to stop people from talking, that’s the way it is. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. Whatever they want to say.

“But obviously yeah, look, I’m doing the job the best I can. We’ve had a fair amount of success. I’d like to finish it off, unfortunately we haven’t. Not for the lack of trying. Not that we’ve played badly.

“The guys are doing the best they can in a very congested season so far.

“I’m satisfied with what we’ve achieved, obviously I’m disappointed we haven’t won anything. Financially the club did well. We know we’re one step away from massive success.

On the day arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs extended Stuart Baxter's contract until 2016, De Sa insists: “All we can do is keep on trying – and working towards the next cup final. Only two coaches have ever reached every cup final. I’ve got one more (the Nedbank Cup) to come!

“If they’re saying I must go, who’s safe? I won’t worry about the others. I’ve got to worry about myself and the job I’ve got to do.

“It’s not just the results, it’s the way we played, what we’ve achieved. I think about that all the time. In all three finals, I don’t believe we deserved to lose any of them. We weren’t out-played. In all three of them we had opportunities.

“My job is to make sure we play as well as we can. If a guy misses a goal, I can’t do anything about that, I’m on the sidelines.

“We’ve got to keep going, get to the next final. Our football has been pretty good, especially in Africa. The goal from Ngele to win it for Platinum Stars on Saturday was a cracker, you don’t often see that in South African football. Got to take my hat off to that. It’s good for the game.

“Before Ngele’s goals we should have sealed the game off a few times. We had chances.

“It’s a South African sickness. Who’re you going to blame? You’re not going to blame the superstar guy, with his poster on your wall. You’re going to blame the coach.

Ironically, Pirates restart their PSL campaign against Allan Freese’s Platinum Stars at the Royal Bafokeng Palace on Monday. Roger laughs: “I’ve thought hard about that. It might be the best thing that could have happened to us. At least now we’re playing the team that beat us in two cup finals.

“It should be easy to motivate them this time! Improve a few things in some areas, then have another go."

With Pirates technical director Stanley “Screamer” Tshabalala going public with demands Ghana No1 Fatau Dauda MUST play in goal on Monday, De Sa said: “Dauda is working extremely hard, he’s always in contention. The one thing that didn’t work in his favour was he wasn’t registered for the African Champions League. We had a lot of games where we had to be sure Brighton Mlongo and Senzo Meyiwa available.

“Senzo’s done a fantastic job. And Brighton is one for the future, no doubt about it.

“You need three goalkeepers. Dauda is playing right now in the second half of our training match. We are aware he needs to play to secure his place in the Ghana national team for the World Cup next year.

“But our priority is Pirates. We can’t worry too much about Ghana. Obviously, we’re not going to NOT give him an opportunity if the situation arises. The sooner the better. We WILL give him a chance.”

That could come during next month’s CHAN tournament, with Bafana Bafana only permitted to use players from their domestic league. On form, Pirates might expect to have as many as eight players in Gordon Igesund’s squad.

But will Pirates be happy to release players for the tournament, given that they are currently five or six games behind their rivals?

Roger admits: “We don’t know yet, we’re still waiting for the meeting between CAF and the PSL to see what the ruling’s going to be. I’m almost certain NONE of the clubs will want to release their players, particularly Pirates with such a congested fixture list.

“We’re probably going to be playing every third day – we don’t want to be caught short. It puts us in a very difficult position, we are aware of it. That’s why we’re trying to play these friendlies, to look at fringe players, make sure we have the depth to be competitive.”

BOLLOCKZ! my own football show on, airs every Thursday from 9am. See the Ballz channel for our growing collection of interviews with the big names in South African football.

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and how we are doing in using @thumperpigeon's R5,000 to make money for the Ballz charity WINGZ OF CHANGE.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Dogged approach: Sir Clive Barker on OJ, his Aces in the pack... and football under Apartheid

Dog days:  Aces coach Clive Barker

CLIVE BARKER believes OJ Mabizela can recover the form he once showed at Tottenham Hotspur – by propelling newly-promoted Mpumalanga Black Aces to the top eight in the PSL this season.

Speaking on my football show BOLLOCKZ! on, Barker said: “OJ has been fantastic. A revelation. He reminds me of Muhammad Ali when he takes his top off! With him we’ve got half a chance to win a Cup competition too.

“He seems to be really enjoying it at Aces, OJ doesn’t need reminding of what happened to him in the past. When I look at him, in that holding role in the middle of the park where Spurs initially played him, he’s a terrific character. A competitor. He reminds me of Mark Fish!”

Mabizela started out at Maritzburg United before moving to Orlando Pirates, where he scored against a touring Tottenham Hotspur. He was duly shipped off to London, scoring on a beauty on his debut against Leicester in 2003.

Homesickness and “a poor attitude” meant “Old John” returned to South Africa after only nine first-team games at White Hart Lane, but after spells at Mamelodi Sundowns, Platinum Stars, Bidvest Wits and Chippa United, Barker has done what he’s good at: get the best out of a 33-year-old who was generally considered to be past it.

Barker, who coached Bafana Bafana to the now-legendary 1996 African Cup of Nations triumph, said: “When you win everything seems okay but when you lose, it’s not so good on the bus home.

“It’s not just OJ. Bafana Nhlapo is the in-form goalkeeper at the moment, he’s hot, gone four games without conceding a goal (before Sunday’s 1-0 defeat against Polokwane City)

“I’d be disappointed if we don’t finish in the top eight this season, we’ve got quality players with the right attitude. I just think we all bind, at the moment we’re very happy about what happened against Mamelodi Sundowns, beating the top team in the league. But you don’t want to tempt fate.”

At 69, Barker’s revival has taken many by surprise. Including his wife.: “It’s all good for me, Yvonne is heavily involved in her ballet at the moment, giving a week-long course in Hilton, so I can get on with it.

“I’m not going to tell you how old I am – I’ll just say I’m close to Sir Alex Ferguson! There you go, you can work it out!”

And with that we cast out minds back to another era – the early 1980s when The Dog was a pioneering force for football under Apartheid.

He grins: “I remember when you and I were involved at Bush Bucks in Durban in the 1980s. You were part of that campaign that kept football going. Then you went overseas to Fleet Street – it’s nice to have you back here!

“You sum it up exactly. We did things that were unthinkable under Apartheid. I look at it and I think a lot of names should be remembered. We walked out at Orlando Stadium, they threw things at us, it was a chance to get even with what was going on at the time.

“A lot of footballers made big sacrifices, they should have streets named after them. Scotsman Andy Standton, the big goalkeeper Dave Watterson, little Daniel Ramarutsi… we had big strong lads at Bush Bucks!

“I’ve always argued that was the best side ever put together in South Africa. Bennet Gondwe, Professor Ngubane, Raul Gonzales (father of Chile’s Mark Gonzalez)… Mark Tovey at centre-back. Neil was a good player and captained Bafana to that AFCON but his brother was a better defender.

“Those were great days. I remember you taking Mark Gleeson to his first game to watch us. Those were pioneering days. It was a dream. The football was fantastic.

“Those were great times and we’re still going! We must have a cup of coffee with Lawrence Big Bear Ngubane!”

BOLLOCKZ! my own football show on, airs every Thursday from 9am. See the Ballz channel on for our growing collection of interviews with the big names in South African football.

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and how we are doing in using @thumperpigeon's R5,000 to make money for the Ballz charity WINGZ OF CHANGE.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Three finals, three defeats: but Roger de Sa has made R13m in prize money for Orlando Pirates

Roger that: Pirates boss De Sa

ORLANDO PIRATES fans, reeling from a THIRD cup final defeat before Christmas, took to the social networks on Saturday night to vent their understandable anger after a SECOND consecutive failed showdown against modest Platinum Stars.

Penalties divided the teams in the MTN8 final in Durban at the end of September. On Saturday night in Mbombela, super-sub Mogakolodi Ngele’s late brace kept the Crocodiles smiling in the Telkom KO. And of course, those two domestic finals were split by the two-legged African Champions failure against mighty Egyptians Al Ahly.

Attempts to cheer up the boo-hooing Ghost proved fruitless. But you have to try. As a player, as a coach, as a fan, losing a semi-final is far more gut-wrenching than a final I said. But no, “we’ve been humiliated three times, the final is worse” the bitter Bucca chanted.

When it was suggested Kaizer Chiefs would LOVE to play in a final this season when their arch-rivals have played in THREE, I was shouted down again. Apparently reaching a final is, for Pirates fans, worse than going out in the semi-final – or even the first round.

For Roger de Sa, with Steve Komphela and Ruud Krol lurking in the unemployment queue, there appears to be no logical way out. Though Komphela’s unplanned Free State Stars exit was no more deliberate than Krol leaving CS Faxien claiming bonus non-payment, both men are eminentaly capable of taking over at a Pirates side still stuck at the foot of the PSL with all those games in hand.

Even the economic argument, usually the old reliable in these debates, failed to impress. Look at this: As Telkom Knock-out runners-up, Orlando Pirates won R1 750 000. For the African Champions League, second place meant R10 350 000. In the “winner takes all” MTN8, they took home R800 000 like the other six non-finalists.

Lovable little Allan Freese might have won R10 250 000 for his Dikwena with two cup wins but De Sa can rightly claim to have bought over R13 000 000 into the coffers while giving Pirates fans THREE separate occasions to celebrate a final showdown.

And then there’s De Sa himself. Unfazed by the storm breaking around him, he shrugged off yet another gigantic disappointment and said: “Football can be a cruel game. But Ngele’s winner was a cracker, no doubt about that.

“It’s a sad moment. It’s missed chances, we should have scored sealed the game off with another goal. When you are holding a 1-0 lead, there’s always a chance you could concede. We just didn’t finish it off.

“You have to keep going. What do you do after losing three cup finals? You move on to the next one and win that.”

Ironically those could be his last words as Pirates boss. Time – and Dr Irvin Khoza – will tell.

BOLLOCKZ! my own football show on, airs every Thursday from 9am. See the Ballz channel on for our growing collection of interviews with the big names in South African football.

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and how we are doing in using @thumperpigeon's R5,000 to make money for the Ballz charity WINGZ OF CHANGE.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Christmas comes early to the orphans of Makhulong: Spoor & Fisher put the ho ho ho in one children's ho-me

Up lifting: with Courage/Benji, Phemke, me/Martin, Hlogi,
Eva/Dikeledi at Makhulong's Christmas on Saturday

THE MAKHULONG CHILD AND YOUTH CARE centre is easily missed. Driving along the R513 towards Cullinan’s diamond-tinted slag heaps, you have to bump about a kilometre along a fairly dodgy dirt road to track down this little haven for some of sprawling Tshwane's “unwanted” kids.

Child and youth care centre? We used to call them orphanages in the bad old days. The fact is, when legal firm Spoor & Fisher decided to hold their annual Christmas Party at Makhulong, we hardly knew what to expect.

Supported by nearby Doxa Deo church, Makhulong is one of dozens – hundreds – of such “shelters” around Tshwane for the children of families who don’t quite make it. These are the kids removed from their homes because, officially, they have been “maltreated or sexually abused”. The two brave little buildings in the middle of the local High School a few miles from Mamelodi also house AIDS orphans and those whose parents have passed on… or simply moved on.

HO HO HO! Santa Hlogi and Courage hand out goodies
with help from elves Morgan and Matthew

The two homes, Jabulani House and Shalom House are not doing that badly. The kitchens are well-appointed but poorly stocked, the bathrooms are clean, the bedrooms sparse but neat. The lounge or living areas, when we got there for the first visit, are cramped but comfortable, though I’ve got to ask Docky Dockrat about getting DSTV provided – they were watching an ancient Jungle Book video when we first experienced the magic of Makhulong.

Ages vary from six – twins Martin and Phillip who laugh heartily at my attempted Sepedi – to awkward 18-year-olds with no future other than the one they can carve out for themselves.

Next year George, who is repeating standard 11, may find himself without a home. Makhulong is offering a future to one of its four matriculants, but they simply can’t provide for all. Jobs are scarce for everyone... particularly orphans. George, though initially withdrawn, is a cracking bloke. Big Kaizer Chiefs fan, helpful, strong, handsome, articulate, knows his music (though I explained Steve Hofmeyr was not my choice, he put it on because he assumed…) and I’d offer him a job given half a chance.
 Peace, the little guy in the check shirt aged 7, lost his mum two years ago. Rose, who runs Jabulani House 24 hours a day with her daughter and husband on site, explains: “Sometimes Peace just goes quiet. And tears begin to flow. We don’t know how to deal with it.”
The tragic stories come thick and fast. They are not unique to Makhulong, in fact when you get under the surface around Tshwane, they are common-place. Parents who can’t cope, take drugs, drink or have died of AIDS. Fathers who lash out, mothers who can't cope.
Like parts of Slough where I used to live in England, this is the dark side of the modern, consumer world. The kids they left behind. This is not just a South African problem. Or even an African problem. It’s global. But South Africa lacks the safety-net to provide much in the way of state help.
These children would be street kids if it wasn’t for Doxa Deo, Rose and Tecla and their exhausted helpers. They would be unprotected, abused, addicted and (as another Highveld storm rolls in), cold, wet and hungry.
On the Thursday between our two visits, a mighty hail-storm smashed nearly every east-facing window at Makhulong, it tore through foliage turning the dirt-red car park dark green – oh, and a roof collapsed in Tecla's house, Shalom.
But when Spoor and Fisher turned up for Christmas with a bakkie for a sleigh you wouldn’t have known they’d suffered a nightmare of tennis-ball sized ice and screaming children just 48 hours before.

Dancing in the house: Benjie, Morgan, Peace, Mpho,
Phillip, Eva, Martin, Dikaledi, Tumelo, and in the
background, big George
With young trainee trade mark  lawyer Courage Morero in charge of Santa’s elves and 2005 Pretoria Boy’s High School first XV flanker Hlogi Kgothadi donning the beard as Saint Nicholas himself, we were able – briefly – to turn Makhulong  into a hail-protected, tear-free Winter Wonderland with former Bidvest Wits professional footballer Nolo Makhutle in pole position as DJ.
It won’t solve the problems parent-less children face in the world. It won’t stop the tears, the frustration, the heart-ache. But just for an afternoon, Corporate Social Responsibility had put its money where its mouth is with Spoor & Fisher refusing to divulge the exact amount spent on everything from a bag of stationary and toiletries for each child to bikes, guitars and much-needed clothes.
 The braais burned, the kids danced, the shoeless bouncy castle… well… bounced. Christmas in blazing sunshine. I’ll never quite get used to that. But the smiles were universally Yuletide. After about three hours the true Peace was breaking out, smiling and interacting.
 Over the past two years, Spoor & Fisher have backed the vast Africa Tikkun sports day, sent a CHOC team to the 94.7 cycle race, built an R80,000 RDP home in Orange Farm, erected a wooden jungle gym in the desolate Tankwa wasteland and painted a home for abandoned children in Lyttelton.

Kings of the Castle: Eva about to leap!
But nothing quite prepares you for Makhulong. We left our little friends struggling to ride their bikes, little Eva, 8, sweating as she ran alongside Benji, 9, struggling to keep his balance. In truth, Rose and Tecla need about 18 mums and as many dads to get through an ordinary day. Or the average scream-punctuated night.

But they soldier on. A band of children cast adrift in the world. And they’re the lucky ones. We left them two goals and a few footballs. They walk the dirt road and take a bus to school every morning. Some of them - like Dikeledi and Thabang - are top of the class, big George and little Eva are struggling but “willing to work harder” they tell me with earnest voices.
Yes, there were tears when we left. Most of them inside our car, if I’m honest. If you get the chance, perhaps you could contact a bloke called Riaan de Wet on +27 12 808 9950 or and offer to visit, or help… or just give some cash to Doxa Deo’s network of half-a-dozen children’s homes (see
 If you can’t be bothered, I understand. If this sort of thing doesn’t move you, fine. But just take a second to think. What would it have been like for YOU growing up without mum and dad? Nobody to kick a football with. Nobody to kiss Phillip’s bike-damaged shin better. One mum to put a dozen children to bed at night.
 Think about it. It’s real. They’re out there. The nearly-forgotten kids. Even as the rain lashes down.

BOLLOCKZ! my own football show on, airs every Thursday from 9am. See the Ballz channel on for our growing collection of interviews with the big names in South African football.

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and how we are doing in using @thumperpigeon's R5,000 to make money for the Ballz charity WINGZ OF CHANGE.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Still propping up the PSL: Why BOTTOM-TO-THE-TOP may prove a tough task for Orlando Pirates

Plundering the Pirates: Ernst Middendorp and crew

THE full scale of Orlando Pirates monumental “bottom-to-the-top” campaign was painfully mapped out for the Buccaneers on Saturday night.

After that draining African Champions League crusade, Roger de Sa’s side were STILL in the fight for the Q1 prize until Bloemfontein Celtic turned up in Orlando.

But on a day of great entertainment – which also saw Kaizer Chiefs go top of the PSL – the mediocre Siwelele raised their game to new heights.

Coach Ernst Middendorp admitted after their shock 3-2 away win: “Look, I spoke at half-time to the players, our first-half was the best I’ve seen in the PSL this season. And I'm traveling a lot, I go to Pretoria, I go watch matches in Pietermaritzburg, and all over.

"We are probably one of the only teams really playing with two up front, we create chances and sometimes the best defence is moving forward. Now our back-four operates as a compact unit, and one of our secrets is that we were very solid at the back."

"Then in the second half, we showed that fighting spirit we've been asking for and I'm very very, very happy for my team. Today’s result was full deserved.”

And there’s Roger’s problem. Though his side learned a lot on their continental crusade, they return to the hurly-burly of domestic football with EVERY side in the country eager to keep the bustling Buccaneers below them.

De Sa himself accepts: “How poor was that? We were too relaxed. In the first half we were horrendous. The second half was a little bit better but still not good enough.

"There might be a little bit of fatigue setting in, and some of the new players not up to it. We have to throw new players in and Mbongeni Gumede had some good moments, but it’s still a learning curve.

“No excuses, they were better than us, they wanted it more than us, and we've got to do a lot better.”

It remains the case that Pirates could go on an epic journey from the bottom to the top of the PSL – if they WON all those five or six games in hand they could still sneak above Chiefs – but De Sa is now aware of just how tough that task will be after five games have earned them a mere seven points.

They don’t have another PSL game until they travel to dangerous youngsters Ajax Cape Town on the 11th, so they’re going to be rock-bottom for some time yet. On Saturday at 8.15pm in Mbombela they’ve got Platinum Stars in the Telkom KO final – a repeat of the MTN8 final they lost on penalties in Durban earlier in the season.

With the African Champions League and MTN8 both lost at the last hurdle, De Sa says: “I’m hardly delighted about that but at least we know where the finishing line is. It’s got to be third time lucky for us.”

I suspect he’s right. But a TelkomKO triumph will only prove a temporary solution. The PSL has rarely been more competitive. Being bottom of the table is no elephant in the room. It’s a raging bull for Roger.

BOLLOCKZ! my own football show on, airs every Thursday from 9am. See the Ballz channel on for our growing collection of interviews with the big names in South African football.

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and how we are doing in using @thumperpigeon's R5,000 to make money for the Ballz charity WINGZ OF CHANGE.