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There Is More To Highlands vs Chiefs Than Meets the Eye

For those of you who are in Tembisa and are heading out to watch Highlands Park take on Kaizer Chiefs on Wednesday night, you are part of more of a historic moment than you would believe.

For those of you who don't know, Highlands Park is not a shiny, new team. The Lions of the North were last in the top flight of South African football 34 years ago, and were a force to be reckoned with. They used to share an explosive relationship with Chiefs as they were both giants of local football at the time.

Interestingly, 37 years ago, these two teams played in a Mainstay Cup final. It was one fit for a Hollywood thriller. The 40 000 capacity Rand Stadium was almost doubled in capacity. There were many controversial moments, including two red cards and fans storming the pitch. The game was tied 3-3 in the dying minutes, and then Highlands Park scored right at the end.

That goal was disallowed, but the referee later admitted he disallowed it because he was scared it would result in a riot. After that, Highlands Park was sold for R800 000 to Jomo Sono and renamed Jomo Cosmos.

Now they are back, and they pose a real threat of establishing a competitive relationship with Amakhosi once again, largely due to Chiefs' poor form but also because Highlands are no pushovers. With an attack spearheaded by Collins Mbesuma and Charlton Mashumba, as well as the tactically superior Allan Freese as the brains behind the operation, anything is possible.

Furthermore, the big difference between 37 years ago and today is that Highlands Park will be playing in a fortress. Their home stadium in Tembisa will be packed to capacity, and the people are football-hungry. The same cannot be said for the Glamour Boys, who play their home games to a cathedral of empty orange seats and a chorus of echoes against the dull passing among defenders that has lulled the crowd away from wanting to pay to watch the team's lacklustre performances of late.

This is an exciting time as our football has a touch of nostalgia to it. Added to this is the revival of Cape Town City, a club that also existed a number of years ago. This week, the first Cape Town derby in four years, since Santos got relegated in 2012, will be played.

There is history being made all around us. It is a very exciting time to be a South African football supporter. Don't participate passively, make your way to the stadiums near you this week and be part of the ever-growing story as we pay tribute to our legends and look to craft new ones.

Much love,

Nikolaos Kirkinis

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