Johannesburg – The Premier Soccer League’s new season has only recently started but fixture chaos is reigning already, with the league forced to move several matches to accommodate the two-legged MTN8 semi-final between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
PSL general manager Derek Blanckensee conceded the league couldn’t envisage the Soweto giants clashing in the semi-finals, hence the first-leg matches were initially pencilled in for Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
But due to what happened at Ellis Park in April 2001, when over 40 supporters perished in a stampede during a midweek derby, the PSL executive – after a lengthy meeting on Wednesday – decided to move the Soweto Derby first leg tie between the giants to next Saturday.
“We have been criticised in the past for playing cup matches only on weekends. There was this talk that we should consider playing semi-finals during the week, like they do in Spain for instance. But when we drew up the fixtures, first, we didn’t know if Pirates and Chiefs would win their opening games, secondly, if they would draw one another. It has happened and we’ve had to react to that,” Blanckensee explained.
The second leg semi-final tie between the sides will be played on September 24 at Pirates’ home venue Orlando, which is also in midweek but, as Blanckensee explained, that day is a public holiday. “The biggest problem with Ellis Park (disaster) was that it was a night game and people were rushing from work to catch the game. We shouldn’t have problems on September 24 because it’s an afternoon kick-off.”
With Orlando having a capacity of 40 000, many fans who will descend on the 90 000-seat Soccer City next weekend are set to miss out on the second leg, but Blanckensee insisted the league would impose a strict ticketing system to ensure there’s no overcrowding.
Wednesday’s decision, however, has plunged the fixture list into chaos. To start with, the league this week told Ajax Cape Town their match against Pirates – scheduled for Tuesday, August 20 – had been cancelled. But now it’s too late to reinstate it, leaving the Urban Warriors without action for some time – Ajax’s next match is on September 1, which would be an incredible 28 days after their first fixture. Other fixtures affected are those initially set for September 24 – when Chiefs were meant to travel to Bloemfontein Celtic – and the September 27-28 block fixture. The MTN8 final now takes place on September 28, the same date as the SA Football Association’s elective congress.
August 24: Chiefs v Pirates, FNB Stadium, 3pm; August 25: Platinum Stars v Wits, Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, 3pm
September 24: Pirates v Chiefs, Orlando, 3pm; Wits v Stars, Bidvest Stadium, 7.30pm