Friends and enemies broadly define what should be a riveting, intriguing Mother City derby between Cape Town City and Ajax Cape Town at the Cape Town Stadium tomorrow night.
Since City boss John Comitis bought the PSL franchise of Mpumalanga Black Aces to establish the new top-flight club in June, everything has been leading up to this - the Cape derby symbolises the unconcealed enmity between the owners of the two Cape clubs - Comitis and the Efstathiou brothers.
So, spare a thought for the two coaches - City’s Eric Tinkler and Roger de Sa of Ajax. Caught between the warring club bosses, wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall when the two coaches have a chat? Because Tinkler and De Sa are the best of friends.
They worked together at Wits and, when De Sa took charge of Orlando Pirates in 2012, the first thing he did was appoint Tinkler as his assistant. The relationship between Comitis and the Efstathious is a classic example of what happens when friends become enemies. They are brothers-in-law and they were partners in Cape Town Spurs and Ajax but things went sour. There were some very ugly boardroom spats between them and Comitis quit Ajax in 2013.
Friends and enemies - these are the peculiar circumstances that set up the rivalry.
Both clubs were in action on Tuesday night, with City impressive in a 0-0 draw with Pirates in Soweto, while Ajax could only manage a 1-1 home draw against Polokwane City.
As the derby looms, both coaches know that they’ll have the club bosses chattering loudly and urging anxiously in their ears. The pressure is on, that’s for sure. This is a derby in which there’s a lot more at stake than just three points - it’s about pride, history, it’s about comeuppance, about settling scores and, above all, it’s about friends and enemies.
Tinkler was very happy with City’s performance against Pirates, saying: “We were worth the three points against Pirates. It was a fantastic performance - we started extremely well, we put them under pressure, we didn’t allow them to play and we created chances. Unfortunately, we just didn’t put them in the net. We should have won the game, but I am nevertheless very, very proud of the boys.”
For De Sa, on the other hand, it was a bit of a mixed bag against Polokwane. There was some good, but, as usual, there was the negative, too.
“We started well and we should have sewn the game up in the first half,” said De Sa. “We had a few good chances, but never got the second or third goal we needed. We then dropped off slightly in the second half, conceded a penalty and the red card (for Roscoe Pietersen) was a double blow. It was always going to be hard to come back from that.
“In the end it was probably a good point for us, and we had to fight for the point. But I’m disappointed we didn’t kill off the game in the first half.”
For friends Tinkler and De Sa, this derby is probably just another game. As professionals, they’ll prepare their teams more than adequately and impress on them the significance of it all. But, for friends-turned-enemies Comitis and the Efstathious, this is much more than just a football match.
Friends and enemies, indeed.