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Cape Times – Does cup football still have that spark in the modern-day game? Does it still have the allure and the prestige of years gone by for the so-called “big teams”? Does it still keep us as fans glued to our television sets like an old toffee on a wool jersey?
These questions have been swirling around my peanut-size brain over the last month or so, as I have been trying to fathom how teams like Liverpool, (the mighty) Tottenham Hotspur and Orlando Pirates can still lose to opposition far more inferior than them.
I know that is essentially the essence and the beauty of a competition like the FA Cup and South Africa’s Nedbank Cup –- lower league teams having a chance to upset the big boys. And, let’s face it, everybody loves it when the “David” knocks out the “Goliath”, because for these, shall we say, small teams, it’s something to remember for the rest of their lives. I can only imagine that the students of Maluti FET College haven’t slept a wink since demolishing the mighty Buccaneers last weekend. Mind you, the Bucs players probably haven’t slept either because of the humiliation, I would imagine.
It was a thrashing indeed, much like Oldham Athletic’s hammering of Liverpool earlier this year while their best player, Dean Furman, was playing for Bafana Bafana in the African Nations Cup.
However, those victories were made slightly hollow by the fact that Pirates and Liverpool didn’t field their strongest teams. And both coaches invariably reminded us of that fact after the matches.
It just seems like the big teams don’t care about these traditional cup competitions anymore, with the league much more of a priority these days than it was a couple of years ago. It seems traditional cup competitions are now used to blood youngsters, and for coaches to check out the depth in their squads. Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter even tried a completely new formation during their cup win over Wits, something he wouldn’t have dared to do with the league title at stake.
It’s also rather interesting that the bottom three teams in the Premiership didn’t make it past the last-32 of the Nedbank Cup, and two of those teams played lower league opponents.
Ajax Cape Town, Chippa United and AmaZulu’s trainers have since said that it might be a blessing in disguise that they didn’t get past the first hurdle so that they can focus all their energies solely on the relegation battle.
I know gunning for the title is a priority, and surviving to stay in the top league even more so. But these teams must remember that the smaller teams’ players want to compete against the best, and it shows a lack of respect when the bigger teams field weakened teams.
I also know a lot of football gets played these days, and coaches must try and manage their squad to survive the rigours of the modern game. But you must also show the cup respect, and the paying public respect.
Cup football is as much a part of football as the ball and the goal posts. But if we keep on making a mockery of it, we may soon end up with a knockout farce, instead of knockout football.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
@johancruyff (Not sure if this is the real Johan Cruyff, but this man sure has a few pearls of wisdom): As a coach you need to be straightforward with players. Sometimes they won’t agree. But you make the decisions you need to make.
@johancruyff: Football is a game you play with your brains. You need to be at the right place, at the right time, not too early and not too late.
WHO TO FOLLOW
@KPBofficial: Can Kevin-Prince Boateng and his AC Milan teammates do the double over the mighty Barcelona?
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