CAPE TOWN – Spare a thought for Cape Town All Stars: not only do they have to prepare for a football match against Mamelodi Sundowns, the best team in South Africa, they also have to do so under a cloud of uncertainty with news that the club is to be sold.
Brandon Truter, the coach of the NFD side, confirmed that he and his players have been informed by the club of the imminent sale. While it has caught them off guard, they nevertheless remain determined in their quest to upset the mighty Sundowns in a round of 32 Nedbank Cup clash at Athlone Stadium tomorrow night (8pm kickoff).
All Stars have reached an agreement to sell its franchise to Swallows FC - the club formerly known as Moroka Swallows - and, at this stage, the future of the players and the coaches are shrouded in a veil of anxiety.
The looming sale, in fact, is a surprise because All Stars are reasonably placed on the NFD standings, still in with a shot at a promotion playoff spot. But, as Truter says, the decision is out of their hands; the club belongs to the owner and he has the right to do whatever he wants.
The deal, though, is still to be ratified by the PSL.
“It’s his (Lunga Ntwana, owner) club, he has the right to sell, we don’t have any input in that regard,” said Truter. “It came as a surprise to us. It’s a blow, and it affects the players’ mentality in terms of what lies ahead. So, now, it’s about putting it behind us and moving forward.
This game (against Sundowns) is a perfect opportunity for the players to put themselves on the market. We spoke about it at training, and I’m confident we’ve put it behind us and will move forward from here.”
Truter is certainly under no illusion as to the challenge ahead.
“You saw the crowd at Athlone last week when Sundowns played Cape Town City,” said the All Stars coach. “It doesn’t matter where they play, they have been the African champions and league champions, and we are definitely the underdogs. It also doesn’t matter who they select, or how many changes they make, their quality won’t change.
“But it’s a great opportunity for my players and a chance for the coaching staff to test their ability as well. We have been a bit inconsistent, but we always set out to win. So we will approach the game in the same way, and we will come with a plan. We will prepare as best we can and see what happens. I always tell my players that the next opponent is the only opponent - and, for this one, we have nothing to lose.”
All Stars will be looking at using the experience of Ruzaigh Gamildien to try to unlock the Sundowns defence. The much-travelled 28-year-old attacker, who has previously played for Milano United, Bloemfontein Celtic, AmaZulu, Ajax Cape Town and Santos, has an opportunity to prove he still has a lot to offer.
“His (Gamildien) experience will play a part, he has performed at PSL level,” said Truter. “He has faced Sundowns in the past, so he knows what it’s about. While he has been blowing hot and cold recently, he is still influential for the team, on and off the field.”
For Sundowns, it will be a second trip to Athlone in just a week, having beaten City in a top-of-the-log league encounter last Friday. In theory, this should be far easier for Sundowns, especially with All Stars’ mentality shaken by news of the imminent sale. But this is Cup football, the unpredictability of which needs no further debate, and the champion Pretoria club will be wise to guard against complacency.