Johannesburg – Orlando Pirates’ great run in the African Champions League has thrown the Premier Soccer League’s programme into disarray – and even more chaos could be on the way in the next few weeks.
PSL general manager Derek Blanckensee conceded on Thursday the league had not anticipated Pirates going too far in the continental club championship, but the Buccaneers have now reached the semi-final and, should they proceed to next month’s two-leg final, at least four more of their Absa Premiership fixtures would be postponed.
Three months into the season, Pirates have played just two league games, and the unevenness in the log standings means the league cannot dish out the normal Coach of the Quarter and Player of the Quarter awards until all teams have played eight games – and that could be only in the new year.
“Looking at the history of our teams in CAF inter-club competitions, we didn’t anticipate that Pirates would go this far,” admitted Blanckensee.
“Our teams normally get knocked out before the group phase. But the Pirates situation has presented us with a challenge to which we are trying to find a solution. However, we are happy to see one of our teams doing this well.”
Behind by four fixtures, Pirates have seven more league games scheduled for this year but, should they win the Champions League and reach the final of the Telkom Knockout, that would be whittled down to just two as they would have play in the Fifa Club World Cup in Morocco, from December 11-22.
Bucs’ next league match is a Soweto Derby away to Kaizer Chiefs on October 26, three days after hosting Golden Arrows in a Knockout quarter-final.
Should they overcome Esperance in the Champions League semi-final second leg in Tunis next week, and then beat Arrows, Bucs would be unable to play the Knockout semi-final on November 2/3, and league games against Black Aces (November 6) and Moroka Swallows (November 10) would be postponed. This is because the Champions League final plays over two legs, on November 2/3 and November 9/10.
If they win the Champions League, Pirates would be Africa’s representatives at the Club World Cup, possibly meeting Bayern Munich in the semi-final, and the fact that they would have to travel to Morocco a week earlier would mean they have just one more league match – against SuperSport United on November 24.
“We are aware that if they go all the way in the Champions League and the Telkom Knockout, Pirates would play just four league games before the end of the year, including the two they’ve already played. We would then have no choice but to play catch up in January,” said Blanckensee
Another problem is that the African Nations Championship (CHAN) kicks off on January 11, and the PSL had set aside two weeks for the group phase of the competition to take place before the league’s second round commences. But Pirates, if successful on the continent, would have to face a league match as early as January 6, meaning their players won’t be able to represent Bafana Bafana in the CHAN.
The PSL face more problems next year, when Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United play in the Champions League and the Confederation Cup.
For instance, the two clubs’ games pencilled in for February 8 will have to be shifted because of CAF’s preliminaries games. If Pirates go into that year as African champions, they, too, would begin a fresh round of interclub matches, although it’s unlikely they’ll be put through the preliminary stage.
Blanckensee said the league could do little about the fixture chaos, although he insisted the programme would conclude on May 17 next year as scheduled. “Our major problem is that the CAF games take place on weekends, and the travelling is a factor too.”
*Bucs’ matches already postponed: Ajax, Sundowns, Wits, Free State Stars, Tuks (no new dates announced)
*If Pirates reach the final of the Champions League and semis of the Telkom Knockout, they won’t be able to play the semi-final on Nov 2/3
*Two more of their league games (Nov 6 and 10) would be postponed
*With Nov 30 set for the Knockout final, Pirates would have to play their semi-final immediately after the Nov 11-19 Fifa week
*If Bucs win the Champions League, their games in December (against Maritzburg, Celtic, Platinum Stars and Arrows) would be postponed due to the Fifa Club World Cup form Dec 11-22
*If Pirates are knocked out of both the Champs League and Knockout, they would play twice a week until the end of the year to catch up