I was taken aback by Eric Tinkler echoing SuperSport United chief executive Stan Matthews’ words that they might not go all out in the Caf Confederation Cup which starts this month.
Matsatsantsa a Pitori have a bye in the first round as last year’s losing finalists, which means only two rounds stand between them and a second successive appearance in the group stage of the continental showpiece.
It wasn’t so much Tinkler’s statement, but who said it that shocked me. I have done countless interviews with him talking about how much he likes testing himself against the best.
On the eve of the Confederation Cup final, he spoke about making such appearances a regular occurrence and if his team lost, he’d be back again and again until he won.
The club argue that doing well in the Confederation Cup was taxing for them financially and physically.
I thought that Matthews’ words, right after losing to TP Mazembe, were just an emotional rant from a man who was still disappointed.
But after Tinkler also said it, it looks like it’s the club’s stance on the competition. It’s not surprising because even last year, they fielded their fringe players in the qualifying rounds.
They only started taking the competition seriously in the group stage.
SuperSport’s gripe about the competition comes from the little money they received and how their form has taken a dip since losing the final, winning just two of the 14 matches that came after which sees them being drawn into the relegation quagmire.
But those problems are self-induced.
If SuperSport had been clinical upfront and weren’t bullied by Mazembe in Lubumbashi, they would have pocketed around R17 million, as that’s where the exchange rate for $1.25 million stood in December.
But because they lost, the Tshwane side pocketed close to R10m. It’s absurd that a club would complain about money in the year the prize-money dramatically improved.
You don’t want to make less? Then win the damn thing, and you will cover the costs you incurred through travelling.
And then comes the issue of the club’s current form.
It’s sad that Tinkler is repeating the same mistakes he made at Orlando Pirates after losing the 2015 Caf Confederation Cup.
Back then he hated the mention of the term fatigue, arguing that the media was putting that thought in the players’ minds.
At first he also hated that term at SuperSport, but with results not forthcoming, he was the first to explain how tired his players are as they haven’t had a break.
It’s a genuine concern, especially with the high number of matches that SuperSport had to catch up on.
Last month the club played eight games in 25 days. It’s a lot, and it leaves little time for the players to pick themselves up and regroup after a disappointing result.
That’s why they only collected five points out of 18 in that period.
But with that said, if the club managed their players better, they could have gotten more from them.
Tinkler has waited for some players to break down before giving them a rest. He argues that depth isn’t the answer, form is. That’s absurd for a team that has one of the strongest squads in the league.
SuperSport weren’t adequately prepared for going as far as they did on the continent, just like the Buccaneers, which is why they suffered afterwards.
Pitso Mosimane used to boast that his Mamelodi Sundowns’ programme went as far as the Fifa Club World Cup, a competition they could only play in if they won the Champions League.
Now, that’s being prepared.
That’s why they could still be competitive even after conquering the continent and playing in the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan. Finishing second after such a taxing season isn’t such a bad thing.
SuperSport should stop complaining and start preparing better because the country can only benefit from more clubs doing well on the continent.
Their players speak fondly of their continental sojourn, calling it a great character-building exercise.
Tefu Mashamaite describes their trip to Liberia as one he’ll never forget.
The club spent three hours in Nigeria in transit. They were then told before they could land in Monrovia that the airport was closed, forcing them to be airborne for two hours.
That unsettled some of Mashamaite’s teammates who thought they had run out of fuel and would die.
SuperSport players stomached all of that to go to the final. I believe they can win this competition in the next three years. They just need to plan better.