I turned off my television set and I walked out of the house. I’d already tweeted about the “choke” of all chokes. I had friends to visit and what was the point of watching anyway. Manchester City had surely blown it.
All those Abu Dhabi millions, that hauling in of an eight point deficit, and they couldn’t even beat QPR at home on the final day of the season. Another title to United … another sighting of that smug, rouged face of Sir Alex Ferguson.
And then … after dinner, I checked my phone just to confirm the inevitable. WHAT? City won? Another lesson from the fat ladies. Another amazing twist in this season’s tale.
City turned the English Premier League title sky blue in stoppage time, and it a made me think about this weekend, and our own two-horse title showdown, between two sides of Soweto, Orlando Pirates and Moroka Swallows.
The essential parameters are simple. Pirates win at Golden Arrows, and they win the league. If they don’t, a Swallows win at Maritzburg sends the title to the Birds.
In between that, expect heartbeats to accelerate, brows to sweat, and nails to be chewed down to the bone. A taste was already provided last weekend. As Bloemfontein Celtic went into an early lead at Pirates, and Swallows stormed to a two-goal advantage over Platinum Stars, maroon was the most likely colour on the Premiership trophy. Then the Buccaneers, these days as inevitably as Johannesburg summer rain, found a way to win in the last 20 minutes, and the Ghost again hold the Aces.
This weekend, all I can say to fans of both Pirates and Swallows is stay in your seats, don’t leave until the final whistle blows. Some City supporters walked out in tears on Sunday afternoon, throwing in the towel on their dreams. Yet they were soon scrambling to get back in, as City found a way.
Certainly Pirates fans, who know all about stoppage-time winners, are likely to be more sensible. A betting man would have to back the Buccaneers, with their astonishing resilience, and on the back of last season’s final day heroics, to hold their nerve.
Then again that same betting man would have probably put his house on City having blown the title, when stoppage time hit on Sunday. Of course, after the Absa Premiership showdown on Saturday night comes the Uefa Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
The last time Bayern played an English side in the Champions League final they lost to two goals in … stoppage time. A portent? As a Chelsea fan, I sure do hope so.