Carling Black Label Cup has become a fan favourite
That is perhaps a sign of just how huge a following Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates command in the local game.
The fact that millions of votes are received in determining the starting line-ups for the Soweto Derby tells the tale of a football community keen to “coach” their sides.
The pre-season clash between Amakhosi and the Buccaneers provides them with exactly that and, boy, have they taken advantage of it.
This year’s edition takes place on Saturday at the FNB Stadium (3pm kick-off) and as has always been the case since its introduction seven years ago, the match will be a sold out affair.
Carling Black Label brand director Grant Pereira could not hide his excitement at the competition’s growth and continued support from the two clubs’ soccer fans.
“We are thrilled at the overwhelming show of support from the supporters of the Carling Black Label Cup,” he said.
“This marks a major moment in the history of local football. It speaks volumes about the initiative and demonstrates that fans are hungry for their chance to impact the beautiful game.”
Chiefs fans, though, will be disappointed that their favourite Itumeleng Khune will not participate in the match due to a shoulder injury.
Khune had already amassed upwards of 80,000 votes and will be replaced by Bruce Bvuma in the Amakhosi goal.
According to the organisers, the supporters who had voted for Khune will be credited those back and they can now use them for other players.
While Khune will miss out, perhaps the big news for Chiefs fans is that they will get to see their new signing Lazarous Kambole in action wearing the famous gold and black.
As if he does not have enough pressure being signed as a key to unlocking that trophy cabinet which Amakhosi have not opened in four seasons, the Zambian now has to show that his lofty billing as Zesco United’s Player of the Year from the past season was no fluke.
Kambole comes highly recommended and the fact that a few of his compatriots who previously played for Chiefs did so with aplomb means much will be expected of him.
It is a tall ask for Kambole, what with him counting the likes of Wedson Nyirenda, Collins Mbesuma and Knowledge Musonda as his predecessors to have been tasked with leading the Amakhosi attack.
Clearly the Chiefs faithful are eager to see if he is worthy of all the hype as they have voted him into the team. Come Saturday, at an FNB Stadium that will be packed to the rafters in a match against the sworn enemy, Kambole has to deliver.
That it is a match most had previously considered somewhat of a joke will not matter.@tshiliboy