CAPE TOWN - Seize every trite cliche so regularly trotted out by players and coaches and shove it where it can’t be heard. Because this is not “just about the three points”, and it’s certainly not “just another game”.
When Ajax Cape Town host Cape Town City at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday afternoon (3pm kickoff), the two teams have a responsibility to more than just their teammates and their clubs. The onus is on them to do the occasion justice and to produce a football match worthy of the hype - because the Mother City derby has always been special.
“The Cape derby is a special game,” said Hanover Park-born Benni McCarthy, City's coach. “When you grow up in Cape Town, you know the difficulties you are going to face.
"I was fortunate to go on and play football in Europe, but now I’ve come full circle and I’m managing a club owned by John Comitis. I grew up in front of him and I know it’s going to be difficult to face him if I don’t deliver the three points.”
Stanley Menzo, the coach of Ajax, is thrilled to be part of the derby, something he says he has never experienced before.
“The Cape derby is obviously special, just look at all the attention we are getting before the game,” said Menzo. “It always creates great energy when two teams from the same city, who use the same stadium, come up against each other. And I’ve seen the energy among the players this week.
“There will be a lot of passion in the game,” said Menzo. “City have a new coach, they have new players, so things have changed a bit from last season. So as long as we have respect for each other and go for it, I’m expecting a good game.”
McCarthy, of course, understands the occasion a whole lot more than Menzo - he’s watched many a Cape derby and played in a few - which is why he will have his men tuned to the hilt.
“This is about bragging rights,” said McCarthy. “Yes, Ajax have the history, and we are less than two-years-old, but already we are showing what we can do. A lot of the players in the derby are from Cape Town and their friends and families will be there. This is about making sure that we win, so that afterwards we can walk proud in the city, knowing that we did the business.”
Both coaches also weighed in on the issue of refereeing. The quality of the match officials has been in the spotlight recently, but Menzo and McCarthy see things differently.
The City coach just wants some consistency from the match officials, while Menzo prefers to focus on what he can control. “I think we give referees too much attention,” said Menzo.
McCarthy, though, felt differently. “Supporters spend a lot of money to come and watch football and I don’t think they want the referee to spoil things,” said McCarthy.