Let’s Support Our Teams More!
Editor's Blog: Let’s Support Our Teams More!
Mamelodi Sundowns face what will arguably be their toughest month this season, when the PSL season resumes in two weeks’ time with no less than eight nail-biting fixtures in a space of less than a month!
That means Coach Pitso Mosimane’s charges will be playing a game almost every fourth day! Their sin for this ‘punishment’? Winning the CAF Champions League and subsequently participating in the FIFA Club World Cup in December. Now they find themselves playing catch-up with the rest of the league. To put things into perspective, Sundowns have only played nine league games, with 19 points, so far this season, six games away from the halfway mark of the season.
The likes of SuperSport United, Bidvest Wits, and Cape Town City – all joint top of the log with 25 points apiece– enjoy a good lead on the Brazilians who only have games in hand, while others boast points.
As defending league champions, it will be almost impossible for the club to win a third league title. They will remain on the back foot for the remainder of the season, considering they are scheduled to take part in the CAF Super Cup four days after Valentine’s Day next month.
Mosimane’s charges have had very little rest since their successful Champions League campaign and it is only a matter of time before the after-effects start showing. The hectic domestic schedule isn’t helping either and to think the Brazilians had to play Polokwane City in the Telkom Knockout Last 16 a day after landing back in the country from lifting the Champions League trophy in Egypt pretty much paints a horrible picture of a team that is not celebrated enough in its own backyard. This is not the first time that a South African team that has progressed to the furthest stage of a continental tournament find themselves having to pick up the pieces and play catch-up, only for the wheels to come off at some point.
Think back to Pirates under both Roger de Sa and Eric Tinkler when they reached the finals of the Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively. They were the darlings of their team but, due to lack of support, their teams were never the same after reaching those cup finals. In fact, they were so far behind domestically that the coaches eventually lost their jobs, not without earning themselves ‘Roger Draw Sa’ and ‘Eric Toddler’ tags from a section of the supporters.
When you look at the two coaches’ respective tenures at Pirates, you will notice that they somewhat exceeded expectations but were let down by the same people they “represented with pride” – their own country. How do you play a high-intensity game against Al Ahly to secure a place in the semi-final of the Champions League on a Sunday, and then have to play Kaizer Chiefs in the second leg of a domestic cup semi-final two days later, for instance? How is a coach supposed to prepare his team in such a short space of time? What about the players’ physical condition?
Does anyone care that De Sa and Tinkler reached those cup finals? Does anyone care to reason that the subsequent domestic cup finals they reached and failed to win were as a result of fatigue and therefore they deserve credit for going so far? No, all people care about is that they failed to win at least no less than five cup finals during their time at Bucs. In the supporters’ eyes, these two failed at Bucs but, if you dig deeper, you will find that they deserved more credit than they got. No one even cares about them finishing as runners-up because no one remembers second best. Has anyone stopped to think what better support for these two coaches and their teams could have done for South African football? We could be talking three continental trophies in South Africa in less than a decade and, to top it all off, won by our own in De Sa, Tinkler and Mosimane.
The amount of travelling and the gruelling schedule that comes with taking these continental tournaments seriously is immeasurable, let alone the financial implications and the hostile environments our teams are subjected to, while they are doing their best to hoist our country’s flag high. We don’t prioritise our continental representatives when it comes to scheduling. Yes, the PSL has extended the 2016/17 league to June, but that doesn’t really help much for the team that was already in the continental trenches from last year, as they will look to defend their Champions League as well the league title. More appreciation is urgently needed for our teams.
Little wonder Gavin Hunt took a weakened Wits side to Swaziland’s Somhlolo stadium in 2015 to face Royal Leopards in the second leg of the Confederation Cup clash, having taken a 3-0 lead in the first leg at home. They lost the second leg 6-5 on penalties and that was it, only to pay more attention to domestic football. Stuart Baxter sent assistant coach, Doctor Khumalo, with a rather largely inexperienced starting line-up to Abidjan to face ASEC Mimosas for the second leg of a Confed Cup game, another move that was heavily criticised as the two coaches were seen as not taking continental football seriously. For Baxter, he had a very hectic schedule and had to prioritise the Nedbank Cup and the league title. It made no sense to risk those two in favour of the Confed and that proved to be a good move. So, until we support our continental representatives well, very few will succeed and our league will remain the best, only financially, and nowhere else.
On a lighter and more positive note, Soccer Laduma turns 20 on Friday the 27th and it is such an honour and privilege for me and the rest of the team to be part of this publication. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you – our loyal readers – for your contribution, support, feedback and guidance over the years. Words fail me in trying to express our gratitude to you because there would be no Soccer Laduma without you guys, so, once again, thank you so much. Long live!!!