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Now Is The Players’ Turn

It is the big one this coming Saturday. Diarise it: FNB Stadium is the venue, October 27 is the date, the Soweto Derby is the event. Orlando Pirates will be hosting archrivals, Kaizer Chiefs, at the 96 000-seater and the ‘sold-out’ sticker was put up last week already.
 
Can you believe it? South African footballers buying league match tickets a week in advance. Brilliant stuff and congrats to those who have shown, once again, that South African football still has support. Well done to those who have secured their seats in what should be a capacity crowd to witness one of the biggest derbies in the continent. It is advisable for our people to please arrive on time and avoid any unnecessary hassle so that we can all enjoy the much-anticipated game without putting our lives at risk due to late arrival. 
 
If the build-up is anything to go by, this should be a humdinger of a game. The supporters have done their part – the players are guaranteed to play in front of no less than 80 000 screaming supporters. Isn’t that the best feeling for any footballer? The stage is set without any rain forecasted, at the time of going to press. Three boxes have been ticked already: the supporters bought tickets early, they will fill the stadium to capacity and we will have good weather. Now, let’s turn our attention to where it matters the most, on the field of play. With the two sets of players knowing that they’re guaranteed a great atmosphere, surely the least they can do is to return the favour. Play some breathtaking football that will quench the supporters’ long-standing thirst for a top-class and memorable Soweto Derby. The supporters have done their part, now it is the players’ turn. 
Bucs go into the clash sitting second on the log with 16 points from 10 games, while Amakhosi are third with 14 points from the same number of games. There’s a lot to play for, that’s for sure. 
 
Over the last few seasons, there have been more draws than wins with little to write home about. It was based on this disappointing reality that grumbles of the Soweto Derby losing its spark started gaining momentum. The forever-exciting Tshwane Derby between Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United didn’t help at all, as football purists know a good game when they see one.
 
These two teams have not only dominated the domestic league when it comes to silverware, but their derby has also been an exhilarating affair where you’re guaranteed goals even if they play to a draw. The Soweto Derby is the biggest clash in the Absa Premiership calendar, a flagship of South African football, therefore it deserves to be treated as such. This is one fixture that every footballer dreams of becoming a part of, a fixture that everyone looks forward to. It is the first fixture that everyone, including players, looks for whenever the league releases the season fixtures. This is one fixture that even other teams’ players don’t want to miss and hate to have a fixture at the same time as the derby. To the supporters, this is more than just a football game. This goes beyond just the three points and whoever takes to the field is carrying the hopes of millions of supporters who will be watching with keen interest.  
 
Both coach Milutin Sredojevic and Giovanni Solinas have a huge responsibility to ensure that the tens of thousands at the stadium and the millions of supporters watching on television have something to cheer about after the final whistle. Their philosophy and approach so far has been that of attacking football and one hopes it doesn’t change on Saturday and go back to the days of teams playing not to lose rather than to win. The two coaches and their players have a duty to ensure that the build-up doesn’t become more exciting than the match, like in the past. The reinforcements made by the two clubs add to the excitement because, for once in a long time, there are individual players from both sides to look out for. Every big team has to have a special player that the supporters would pay to go watch, a player they get hurt when he’s not available because they know his impact. Think of the El Clasico without Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid and Lionel Messi for Barcelona – those two are key players that everyone wants to see on the field as they can turn the game on its head. Both Pirates and Chiefs have done well to sign match winners and exciting players to add to their squads and that excites the supporters and boosts the confidence and the chances of delivering good results.
Speaking of delivering good results, Pirates reached out to Soccer Laduma for a collaboration in rolling out their Legends’ campaign where the club’s supporters get a chance to vote five Legends into the club’s “Hall of Fame”. 75 Legends have been selected to form part of the #80 Legends campaign, which was to coincide with the team’s 80th birthday celebrations. If you turn to page 17, you will find all the necessary information. What’s also good is that there are prizes to be won by those who will be casting their votes. It will be interesting to see who, of the shortlisted group, will be voted into the five available spots. Not an easy task at all, but it has to be done. 
 
Finally, before I sign off I have some exciting news for all of our readers who get their daily soccer news on www.soccerladuma.co.za. Our digital team have been hard at work with developers to create a new look web & mobisite for our online community. It launched officially yesterday (Tuesday) and I’m sure you will be impressed by the new, sleek-looking site with an incredible new Match Centre and faster loading pages. Please head over there if you have not yet logged on today and go check it out. As always, let us know what you think as we are trying to constantly improve our online offering for you. 
 
Cheers
VeeJay 
 

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