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Santos have promised a more focused and determined approach for the PSL’s promotion play-offs.
The Cape PSL side take on First Division neighbours Chippa United in their second match of the three-team mini-league at Athlone Stadium tomorrow night (kick-off 7.30pm) – and they have already put last season’s dismal campaign behind them.
The past is the past, and they want it to stay there. They are focused on only one goal and that is to ensure they retain their status as a PSL club.
Having finished second last in the PSL last season, Santos now have to play off against Chippa and another First Division club, Thanda Royal Zulu. The teams will play each other home and away, and the team with the most points will secure a place in the top-flight next season.
Each club has played one fixture so far, with Santos on three points and Chippa and Thanda both on one point.
It makes the match against Chippa vital for Santos. Victory tomorrow would put them on six points, well ahead of the two lower-tier teams.
And it’s this fact that acts as motivation for Santos’ new attitude of determination as they approach the fixture.
“We have been training hard in preparation for these play-offs,” said Santos goalkeeper Pa Dembo Touray.
“There’s a lot at stake and we certainly don’t want to slip up. We’ll respect our opponents, Chippa. There’s no way we will be underrating them. Playing lower division teams is always tough because they are bursting to play well. They want to show the ‘bigger club’ that they are good enough.
“So we will have to be careful. Chippa have nothing to lose, making tomorrow’s match a difficult one indeed.
“But we will be treating each of these games like a normal PSL game and we are ready to give of our best.”
Touray signed for Santos during the January transfer window and he has provided one of the few bright spots in what has been a horrible year for the Capetonians.
From Gambia, the 32-year-old goalkeeper spent 12 years playing in Sweden, where he was good enough to be awarded the country’s goalkeeper of the year prize in 2011.
Touray stands an impressive 198cm, but don’t let his size fool you – he’s acrobatic, confident on the cross and an excellent communicator.
There are many who suggest that, if it wasn’t for the Gambian ‘keeper’s stellar performances this season, Santos may well have been relegated.
This is an indication of just how important Touray has been to the Cape club’s cause.
He knows he has an important role to play tomorrow if Santos are to get the better of their First Division opponents.
But having been in the Mother City – and the PSL – for a few months now, what is the articulate, well-travelled keeper’s thoughts on what has gone wrong at Santos?
“I only came to the club in the second half of the season, so it’s difficult for me to really put my finger on the problem,” he said.
“But the one thing I can say is that sometimes there have been too many changes to the starting team. To develop as a unit, a team needs to have a core or nucleus that it can call on. In this way, it builds continuity and combinations. This hasn’t always been the case at Santos.
“That is just my small observation. But the problem is probably a little bigger than this and, in any case, it’s not my job as a footballer to think about these things.”
And the PSL? What are his views on football in South Africa?
“The football is of a good standard and there are lots of talented players here,” said the goalkeeper. In Sweden, the game was a lot more physical, whereas here there is a lot more skill on offer.
“But the one glaring aspect I have noticed is the professional standards of South African players.
“Compared to here, I think that, at overseas clubs, footballers go about their business a lot more seriously.
“The players are disciplined, they respect the game, and they do what they have to do in a professional manner.
“After all, they are being paid very well to do something they love. I think this is an area of the game that South African football can improve upon.”
Tomorrow: Santos v Chippa United (Athlone, 7.30pm)
Saturday: Santos v Thanda Royal Zulu (Athlone, 8.15pm)
Wednesday, June 27: Thanda Royal Zulu v Chippa United (Richards Bay, 2pm)
Saturday, June 30: Chippa United v Santos (Athlone, 3pm)