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It Is Not Bragging If You Can Back It Up!

“I said to the players, they know how to reach the finals, I know how to win the finals.” 
 
This is part of Vladimir Vermezovic’s post-match interview after Orlando Pirates beat Mamelodi Sundowns 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the Nedbank Cup to secure a place in the semi-finals. The Serbian mentor further said, “The players have played their part, as we are a step closer to the final. Now it is my turn.” Some might view this as a statement with arrogant undertones, but the former Kaizer Chiefs coach delivered on his promise.
 
Fast forward to the final against Wits on Saturday afternoon, Vermezovic once again delivered on his word by delivering the elusive silverware to the Parktown-based club’s coffers this season, having gone three cup finals without a win in the calendar year prior to this game. It took a lot of mental and psychological coaching for the Pirates players to get over their three cup final defeats and dealing with the fear of failure in their fourth attempt, but Vermezovic made it look easy. 
 
Going into the second half 1-0 down, whatever Vermezovic said in that change room really worked. Pirates came out a completely different team and went on to score three quick goals to put the game beyond Wits’ reach. Mission accomplished for Vermezovic! 
 
This is the same Vermezovic who waxed lyrical about having the ‘best team in the PSL’ during his days at Naturena when his side proved a thorn in the flesh of many an opposition. He said, “I may not have the best players in the country, but I have the best team.” Vermezovic was labelled arrogant to which he retorted, “If believing in my players makes me arrogant, then I am arrogant.” Now this is every scribe’s favourite kind of coach for pre and post-match interviews. 
 
It rings of another PSL coach, Pitso Mosimane, who delivered on his promise to ‘bring back Mamelodi Sundowns’ 'integrity' after taking over from Johan Neeskens. Many thought it was mission impossible for the former Bafana Bafana coach as he was rushing in ‘where angels fear to tread’ but, true to his word, Mosimane restored Sundowns integrity. Who can argue with the two coaches’ boastful statements? 
As one popular WWE wrestler often says, it is not bragging if you can back it up! Another season has come and gone, but what would the PSL awards be without any controversy? It has been interesting to observe how little people know about the selection criteria and I think the PSL owes it to the general public to educate our people about the selection criteria. 
 
A lot of people, at times (including soccer players themselves) argue about certain award nominees and eventual winners with little, or no, knowledge about the criteria used. For instance, people are up in arms about the Goalkeeper of the Season award, not realising that the award is only based on the 30 league games played. This doesn’t include the cup competitions at all. This, according to social media reactions, proved to be the most contentious award of the night. 
 
I still think the PSL shouldn’t do away with the Player of the Season award, which should be considered based on 30 league games, so that the Footballer of the Season award goes to a player who has excelled in all competitive fronts – league, cup competitions as well as Bafana Bafana. There has to be a distinct difference between the two, and based on what I have seen over the last couple of seasons, this will lessen all the unnecessary controversy surrounding the awards.  
 
The challenge facing not only the PSL, but Soccer Laduma as well, is the public’s inability to distance themselves from their clubs and put their club allegiance aside when it comes to awards. Let us award the deserving players, not the closest to our hearts. I know it is easier said than done, but the day we can master this neutrality, will be the day less controversy clouds our awards ceremonies. 
We had a similar challenge with our Soccer Laduma Readers’ Player of the Season as well as other categories, where a player would amass far more votes than the rest, based on either popularity or his club’s support base, regardless of his playing situation or form. 
 
Speaking of form, Gordon Igesund is expected to reward some of the players who showed good form this past season as Bafana Bafana jets out of the country before the end of the week as they visit Australasia. With Igesund’s future still uncertain, I don’t find this trip exciting at all! 
 
Granted, Australia are preparing for their World Cup campaign, but what about Bafana? Will Gordon still be coaching when the World Cup and AFCON qualifiers take place? If not, then why is he still in charge of the team? How are these games going to benefit us?
 
Deputy Editor
 
Vuyani Joni 

Super Sundowns!

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