Up, Up And Away, Down And Out!
So much to write about, so little space…
That is the thought that ran through my veins as I began putting pen to paper, if only to look back at the weekend that was on the Absa Premiership calendar, with one eye on the last round of matches taking place this coming weekend. Have you fastened your seatbelt? We are in for quite a ride on May 11. We will be subjected to the sight of grown men crying. The gnashing of teeth. But let’s first put a perspective on things before getting a little ahead of ourselves here. The match between Cape Town City and Orlando Pirates attracted the attention of a lot of people, and for good reason. Everyone and their grandmother was in attendance, culminating in a capacity crowd. So much so that the game had to be delayed by 15 minutes as a precautionary measure, as the masses just kept streaming in.
I, however, am not sure I agree with Benni McCarthy’s sentiments, expressed post-match, when he suggested that the fans came out in such large numbers because they knew they would be served up good football by the two teams. I put forward that most were there for the “occasion”. The occasion being that a win would propel the Buccaneers closer to the Promised Land, after so many years of drought. Couple that with the fact that the Soweto giants’ supporters had not seen their favourite team in town this season. Then there is the issue of the venue, Athlone Stadium, which is much closer to where many of the supporters reside than Cape Town Stadium. Travelling to the latter is convenient by public transport, yet parking is a nightmare for those using private vehicles, but not so much at Athlone. Also, the atmosphere at Athlone is always magnificent in such a massive game because, while seated in the stands, you feel much closer to the action. You feel very much part of the action. And it’s a smaller venue, and when you are crammed into a small venue with thousands of other fans, it creates a cacophony that is difficult to describe in words. I’m not saying, though, this game would not have attracted a good crowd on another day and another venue, but not on this scale. There was just so much to play for.
Oh, and what a game it turned out to be, played at a frenetic pace. Whenever any one of the players, from both sides, gained possession of the ball, they ran for dear life, that you would be forgiven for thinking there was a policeman or two giving chase. Talk about high testosterone levels! The two teams left it all on the field, but sometimes your best just isn’t good enough, as it ended in heartbreak for Milutin Sredojevic’s motley gang of Sea Robbers, who conceded late to share the spoils. 2-2 it ended!
I hate clichés, but it’s “going down to the wire”, isn’t it? Pity, due to Soccer Laduma’s Tuesday print deadline, I’m writing this prior to Mamelodi Sundowns’ fixture against Golden Arrows. Small consolation, though, for this mishap: whatever happens in that game, the Fat Lady is not going to sing. It’s must-win games for both teams on Saturday – Downs travel to Goble Park to face a Free State Stars side in the ICU section of the league table, while Pirates welcome a Polokwane City team that has punched above its weight this season, as evidenced by their position on the standings.
Phew, who wrote this script!
Sundowns let their CAF Champions League dream fly past after their dull performance against Wydad Casablanca last weekend and have been handed a lifeline in the league. Are they going to mess this one up as well? You tell me.
Down at the basement, it’s just as heated. Have Maritzburg United left it too late with their win over SuperSport United over the weekend, or will they survive straight relegation? What a massive game theirs is, against, wait for it, Baroka FC, whom they trail by two points. If you are a Chippa United, Black Leopards and Ea Lla Koto fan, you are probably also sitting tight, not knowing whether you are coming or going. It’s a pity about Lidoda Duvha because I believe they have played well in patches this season, but they have not scored enough goals – 29 in 29 league games, 16 of those from the league’s leading (read top) goalscorer Mwape Musonda. Plus they have let in a whopping 46 goals, the league’s joint-highest. Same with the Chilli Boys… Clinton Larsen has brought life to the team and got some of their key players enjoying their football again, but they have been letting in silly goals, as the coach alluded in a recent revolving column in Soccer Laduma. Free State Stars have not shown up this season, having reached the final of the Nedbank Cup a season ago, and the passing on of talented Sinethemba Jantjie did not help their cause at all.
Doctor Khumalo asked an important question in his weekly Soccer Laduma column a few weeks ago. This is what he had to say: “Teams are fighting really hard and we’ve been treated to some exciting football. Yes, the league title race has been intriguing, but the relegation zone seems to be even more interesting considering the fact that from position 11 down, no one can safely say they’re above water. None of the teams will easily give up the fight, that’s for sure, and it’s really interesting to see. However, I ask myself, ‘Why leave it so late to show this fighting spirit?’” To be honest, I wish I had the answer to Doc’s question. I guess it’s a bit like a complacent boyfriend who will up his game once he notices that the relationship’s days are numbered and Madam is no longer singing from the same hymnbook as him. All of a sudden, he wants to treat her to candlelit dinners and what have you, only to realise it’s too late.
As for Kaizer Chiefs? Eish, so much to write about, so little space. Indeed.