The Good, The Bad And The Ugly!
The 2017/18 Absa Premier Soccer League season will go down as one of the toughest since the inception of the League in 1996. This is one season where three points could, at any given time, be a difference between the team sitting in the relegation zone or being in the Top Eight bracket.
There was a lot of good competitive football on display with little separating teams, which makes this game so exciting. It is because of that small margin that people kept coming back for more, in anticipation of what was to happen. The supporters came out in their numbers and it was really good to see the close-knit relationship that exists between the supporters and their respective teams, after all, there’s no football without the supporters. It is vitally important that these people are made to feel part of the game. The level of coaching is also on an improving pace and that is good to see.
Young coaches made a big impact and proved their worth as well, with young players like Siphesihle Ndlovu stealing the limelight and entertaining the supporters in appreciating their hard-earned cash used to attend games. The league title race was made interesting, if only for a few weeks, with Orlando Pirates putting pressure on eventual winners, Mamelodi Sundowns. Interestingly, by week 25, at least five teams had a mathematical chance of clinching the gong but, as coach Pitso Mosimane alluded, the league title was never under threat. What about Free Stars and Maritzburg United reaching the final of the Nedbank Cup and crowning their respective best seasons in spectacular fashion!
For the first time in years, sanity prevailed in the relegation of the last two teams in the PSL log standings, with the top two National First Division sides making their way to the elite league. As one of those who have been consistently opposed to the idea of the relegation/promotional play-offs, it brought a lot of joy to see Black Leopards, who finished second, join Highlands Park in their promotion to the PSL, with both Platinum Stars and Ajax Cape Town relegated. Strange as this may sound, it was one of the highlights of this past season in my books.
Now for the bad. We’ve had a couple of uncharacteristically bad incidents where a section of the Amakhosi faithful showed their displeasure at the club’s disastrous performances by hurling an assortment of missiles to their team at FNB Stadium before compounding the problems with the vandalising of broadcasting equipment and setting the Moses Mabhida Stadium alight, with security personnel bearing the brunt of the actions of the hooligans masquerading as football supporters. The Top Goal Scorer only managed to hit the back of the net 11 times, just 11 times and that was enough to see both Percy Tau and Rodney Ramagalela ascend the podium to collect their prize money at the PSL awards. Just 11 goals enough to see you walk away with the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot Award? Surely, this is bad for any league, whichever way you look at it.
Maybe it is time we don’t celebrate anyone scoring less than 15 goals as a Top Scorer. Speaking of celebrating, it was a sense of de ja vu for Mamelodi Sundowns’ inspirational, yet underrated, captain Hlompho Kekana when he, for the third season on the trot, walked away empty-handed at the season-end awards. While the competition was always tough, I couldn’t believe my eyes when Golden Arrows’ Siphelele Magubane walked away with the one award I was sure would be taken by the Zebediele-born Mr Consistency. Take nothing away from Magubane’s curler, but I still believe Kekana’s long-range shot against Wayne Sandilands deserved more recognition. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kekana’s name made it back into contention for the FIFA Puskas award for that goal.
Kekana’s continued snubbing reminds me of Andile Jali being beaten by a close friend, Thulani Serero, to the podium in 2011, despite the then Bucs midfield maestro’s sterling performances for both club and country, leading Bucs to success.
Then there’s the Bloemfontein Celtic potential sale, which has brought a lot of instability and anguish among the club’s vociferous supporters. If there is one club that should never be allowed to move towns, it is Celtic.
This is one club that has always been ‘owned’ by the masses and it would be a sad day for South African football if no one from the Mangaung region came to rescue the club from the financial difficulties experienced by the current owner, Max Tshabalala, as explained in his interview on page 10 off this edition. Government and the corporate world have to come to the party and ensure that the club remains in Bloemfontein. If we are to encourage full support for our teams, the least we can do is ensure that the teams remain with their people.
The Tendai Ndoro saga has to be the ugliest of them all this past season. The way the whole thing was handled and the impact it has had on the game, so far, makes a mockery of the league. That Ajax were docked points and lost their 15th position at the 11th hour, with Stars replacing them, just a day before the play-offs were nothing short of a disgrace. Ajax, rightfully so, have not given up the fight and, if things turn out in their favour, there could be even worse ramifications as a positive outcome form their appeal could render the recently completed play-offs null and void. That would throw a cat among the pigeons and possibly delay the start of the 2018/19 season, as affected clubs will have a right to appeal. Because of this unfortunate incident, SuperSport United survived a relegation threat on the last day of the season, just as they took a huge sigh of relief, only to find themselves in the Top Eight. Say what! AmaZulu, who had secured a Top Eight finish, were badly affected by the eventual turn of events and lost their place.