I find it quite ironic that the PSL have not allowed Liverpool to visit the Mother City for fear that media attention may be drawn away from the PSL and more especially away from the PSL sponsors. The feeling is that we will get caught up in the hype of having the EPL’s seventh best team here rather than focusing on the Nedbank Cup Final. (That the PSL have in all their wisdom put the Nedbank Cup final on the same day as the Champions League final surely sees attention move elsewhere anyway... but that’s another column altogether.)
I say it’s ironic because the PSL will surely admit that its main audience must be a TV audience if you take into account the low stadium attendance averages week in and week out. Certainly if they are telling their sponsors that there are millions of people watching football, they can’t claim that those people are watching the games live at stadiums. But then the PSL itself moved from the SABC, a TV channel where it was the only soccer product and so had the unrivalled attention of the South African audience, and yet moved to SuperSport, where as football lovers we have the option of simply flipping a channel up or a channel down to watch the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal if the fare being served up by the likes of Chippa, Black Leopards or Ajax Cape Town isn’t holding our attention. Where not only does the PSL compete with the best of British but also with La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and the Portuguese league.
Then again, maybe they have a point. Last weekend, most South African football fans would have been glued to their TVs watching Manchester United lift the English Premier League trophy. And for the coming weeks millions of South African football fans will be focused on Alex Ferguson and his retirement road show. To a large extent the magnitude of Kaizer Chiefs lifting the PSL trophy is currently being overshadowed by the stepping down of Sir Alex Ferguson, and it doesn’t sit too well with me.
You see, for me, the plucky Scotsman isn’t a better man, football architect or more faithful servant to the game than our very own Kaizer Motaung. Yes, Ferguson has won 38 trophies for Man United in his time with the club, staggering really. Kaizer has won more than 70. Yes, Man United under Ferguson have knocked Liverpool off their perch. Kaizer has managed to knock Orlando Pirates, Moroka Swallows and Mamelodi Sundowns off their perches. Yes, Alex Ferguson has signed and helped develop some of the greatest English players to have ever played the game. Chiefs have given South Africa some of our greatest footballing sons. At age 71 Alex Ferguson managed a team to a league title. At 68 Kaizer Motaung managed an organisation to another league title.
And so, while I have the utmost respect for Sir Alex Ferguson and what he has given the game of football, I don’t think his retirement should in any way overshadow Kaizer Motaung’s accomplishment this season. Here is a man who gave South African football this wonderful organisation, Kaizer Chiefs, and South Africa should be focusing on and recognising this incredible triumph.
If you are reading this column on Wednesday morning, you are just hours away from Chiefs more than likely confirming their status as the new champions of the PSL. If it is not confirmed tonight, then by the weekend Chiefs will have another league title under their belts. And no one can deny that this season Kaizer Chiefs under Stuart Baxter have been magnificent. It’s refreshing to have a British coach find the right balance between instilling the discipline and tactical awareness associated with the British game, without killing off the creativeness and natural flamboyance of the South African game. While Kaizer Chiefs are meant to be winners and are associated with success, they are also associated with winning in a certain way, and one cannot fault Baxter for the manner in which he has won the league. At no stage this season has he compromised the ‘footballing culture’ of the club, and it takes a brave coach to do that.
Coincidently, there has been talk of Kaizer Motaung stepping away from some of his roles as executive chairman of Kaizer Chiefs at the end of this campaign and, like Ferguson, what better time to hand over the reins than as a champion. Whether he does indeed step away remains to be seen but, in the meantime, Kaizer Motaung, Soccer-Laduma salutes you, sir. What a shining light you are in South African football.