All eyes are on the big Soweto Derby but don't forget Downs
JOHANNESBURG – For a while on Sunday, it looked like Baroka FC were going to be given a taste of their own medicine.
What a story that would have been?
Eight years after they introduced themselves in style to the football public, Bakgaga were on the verge of exiting the Nedbank Cup to a lower division side.
Hungry Lions, the ABC Motsepe League outfit from the northern Cape, were threatening to send the Premiership side packing out of the country’s premier club knockout competition.
As the match at the Peter Mokaba progressed and Lions gave as good as they got, my mind flashed back to that time when the little known Baroka first stunned Moroka Swallows and then confirmed that their victory over the Birds was no fluke by beating Kaizer Chiefs in the next round to reach the semi-finals.
Baroka were campaigning in the self same regional league like Lions are.
Not that you would have been able to tell the difference between them and their elite adversaries from what was transpiring on the pitch.
As it was, Baroka showed that on any given day football matches are often won by the team that wants it more and believe they have what it takes.
💚— Baroka Football Club (@Baroka_FC) February 26, 2020
We Present to you the 'I AM THE WORSE AT TRAINING TODAY, I HAVE HAD A GERALD PHIRI DAY' Winner during Today's training.
Kgotso Maloka!!!#LennaKeMoroka #GlobalOilSA #Monflair pic.twitter.com/lfLvP5TKXU
I suspect this is going to be the case this weekend when the country’s biggest and most supported sides clash in arguably their most important tie in the past five years.
It has been a very long time since Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs met in a second round league clash with as much at stake as will be at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.
The championship is up for grabs and whoever wins this one is sure to go into the final stretch of the season with a spring in their step.
Sure, Chiefs have the upper hand as they are top of the table and enjoy a seven points lead over Pirates. But Amakhosi have seemingly hit a speed hump that has taken out that sting from their game which saw them rush into what was seen then as an unassailable lead which would deliver them the league title on the occasion of their 50th anniversary.
They go into the derby on the back of an uncharacteristic two-match losing streak after succumbing to defeats by Maritzburg United in the ABSA Premiership and Highlands Park (via a penalty shoot-out) in the Nedbank Cup.
Does Ernst Middendorp have it on him to lift his team up?
Better still, does this current generation of Chiefs players know that historically the derby is won by the team that is seemingly going through a bad patch and will they dig into that background to stop the marauding Buccaneers who are unbeaten in the league since Jozef Zinnbauer took charge?
Here we go! The boys are ready to get stuck into tonight’s session!🏃— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) February 26, 2020
Nothing but good memories for Shuga, having scored at this stadium against Zamalek back in 2016!💪#Sundowns #CAFCL pic.twitter.com/EOUiLmckHz
While the Soweto derby is all anyone is talking about, there is another match this weekend that is just as big, if not bigger.
Mamelodi Sundowns are away in Egypt to take on Al Ahly in the first leg of their CAF Champions League quarter-final clash.
The Egyptians are still reeling from the 5-0 hammering they suffered to the Brazilians at the same stage of the competition last season and will be keen to get even.
Will that desire for revenge drive them to victory or will it play into Sundowns’ hands?
As a South African my hope is for the latter.
After all Pitso Mosimane and Sundowns want that second star above the club’s crest so much that they will not allow Ahly to stand in their way, right?