JOHANNESBURG - The Soweto Derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates isn’t boring as a spectacle and as a football match.
The problem is the expectation from the fanfare that surrounds this match - the sold-out crowd in the biggest stadium in Africa, VIPS in the stands, the banter from the two sets of fans and the build-up that starts a week, if not more, in advance.
All of that contributes to heightened expectations that are hard to consistently meet. But the quality of football on display is consistent to what is produced in the country.
“Whether you like it or not(the fanfare around the Soweto Derby will always be there). You might choose to ignore it and say let me focus (but that won’t happen)," Chiefs’ coach Steve Komphela said.
"When you go to the filling station, they remind you. When you go by your gate, they remind you. As you drive, they remind you. So you can’t ignore it. he biggest thing is to stay focused.
"As you go to your gate you hear, ‘Khosi, baphi labantu? Abeze.’ ‘Where are these people? Let them come.’ When Pirates and Chiefs play, it’s just another phenomenon. You will feel the butterflies at 2.30pm and you say, bring on this thing. Let it come. We try to go in there without stress.”
Try as they might to handle that stress, more often than not the players fail - with their subconscious dragging them back as the burden of losing this match far outweighs the blessings of winning it.
That’s why the last four matches in the league have ended in draws. But the situation is different this time around. There is a league title to fight for. The winner will move a step closer to being genuine championship challengers in the chase to catch the leaders, Mamelodi Sundowns.
The big question then is, will this derby be exciting? Yes. But there won’t be many goals. This is going to be a highly tactical game that will see these two teams consistently cancel each other out as they play a similar formation (3-4-3).
“There are so many things that we as coaches can control in a game but there are things that are beyond our control,” coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic said. “There is no team that will attack from start to end.
"You need to have the perfect balance between attack and defence We have similar approaches with three people upfront and four people supporting them. I call this James Bond (007). We attack with seven and we defend with seven. The same with them.”
A moment of brilliance or a lapse in concentration is likely to decide this match with one goal likely to separate these Soweto giants. The key will be ensuring the players handle the expectation, especially with the league a realistic target for both teams.
The concern is that if these matches were cagey with three points up for grabs, how then will they be with so much at stake? But the stakes being high is what will make this an entertaining match. These two clubs have produced some memorable matches in cup games that needed a winner.
The situation is similar, a draw will hurt both clubs and could see Sundowns stretch the lead - especially since coach Pitso Mosimane predicted that it’ll be a draw, which means he will want to sleep tonight with three points from AmaZulu
“It’s going to be a highly pressing game. It might even get to a state where there is chaos pressing, the ball almost rattling left, right and centre,” Komphela said.