Eric Tinkler fired the first salvo in a football skirmish that has now become the battle to capture the hearts of the Mother City’s football followers. The Cape Town City coach delved deep into his knowledge of history by likening tonight’s derby to the mythological Trojan War.
City take on neighbours Ajax Cape Town in a PSL fixture at the Cape Town Stadium tonight (kickoff 8pm) - and, such is the anticipation and expectation, such is the desire and desperation for success, that Tinkler feels as if he is sending his team to war.
“I’ve been involved in the Kaizer Chiefs v Orlando Pirates derby, which is one of the world’s big derbies,” said former Bafana Bafana midfielder Tinkler. “But I’ve also been involved in smaller derbies, like the Yorkshire derby in England between Barnsley and Sheffield United (Tinkler played for Barnsley). There’s always a lot at stake, irrespective of where the derby is played, or how big or small it is, especially with bragging rights involved. So the Cape derby is just as important and I’ve likened this match to the Battle of Troy and, for tonight, the Cape Town Stadium is the Parthenon. This is definitely a derby that we need to build, so that it gains momentum.”
In Greek Mythology, the Battle or the Fall of Troy, also known as the Trojan War, took place when Paris stole Helen from the Menelaus, the King of Sparta, and the Greeks spent a decade in trying to destroy the city of Troy. Ironically, two of the Greek heroes to die in this war were Achilles and Ajax.
And there you have it - if you needed confirmation that City’s ultimate aim is the destruction of Ajax, the football club, not the Greek hero, then the symbolism is all there, as attested to by Tinkler’s comparison. Make no mistake, we are all set for a real, feuding Cape rivalry - not just tonight, but for a while to come!
But, in sport, as always, it comes down to what happens on the field, not off it. It’s about performance on the day - and both Tinkler and his Ajax counterpart, Roger de Sa, are keenly aware of their responsibility as coaches.
While Tinkler is new to the Mother City, De Sa is in his third season at the helm of Ajax.
“It’s been enjoyable since I came to Cape Town in July,” said Tinkler. “The only occasions I’ve been here before is as a tourist with my wife and kids, and never for more than three or four days. To be honest, I never really liked it all that much, the weather was awful and the place always seemed to be more of a European city rather than an African one! But, since moving here, I have to admit the place has changed. The weather has played along, I think I’ve experienced colder winters in Johannesburg.
“As for City, it has been a case of getting to know the players and rebuilding the squad. We are finding our feet and the players have a better understanding of how we want to play and how we want to do things.”
For De Sa, while this derby may be a big game, he always ensures that he keeps himself and his players grounded by mentioning the fact that there are only three points at stake.
“As coaches, both Eric (Tinkler) and I, our job is to analyse each other’s teams, to look at things tactically, produce good performances from the players and try to win football games,” said De Sa. “But the reality is always that it’s just three points - you don’t get more for winning a derby.
“But I’m nevertheless excited about this derby. I’m really looking forward to it and, at least, I know that there’s no reason to motivate players - they’ll motivate themselves because this is the type of game everybody wants to be involved in. For example, the medical room has been very quiet this week.”
“The loss of a good player like (Abbubaker) Mobara was a blow, but I think we’ve done very well in the transfer market this season. We’ve strengthened all departments and, if I look back at the three games we’ve played so far, we could probably have won all three. So I’m certainly happy with the performance of the squad, but disappointed with the results.”
Both teams have been struggling in front of goal. City haven’t scored in their last four fixtures, while Ajax have squandered a glut of scoring opportunities.
“Goals, you hear the same thing week in and week out,” said Tinkler. “Ask the coaches of all the other PSL clubs and they will tell you the same thing - their teams are creating chances, but not finishing. As a coach, and as a team, we can only keep working on it and hope that it comes. But it’s also crucial to remember that it’s a collective team effort, it’s not just about individuals. For us tonight, the aim is just to keep doing what we did against Pirates on Tuesday, with the only difference being that we need to finish the opportunities.”
So buckle up, the stage is set, the battle is about to commence. The Cape derby is back!