Double delight for fans of the Soweto Derby
JOHANNESBURG – A Double dose of the Soweto derby on successive weekends, how exciting ... Or is it?
Kaizer Chiefs v Orlando Pirates is the country’s premier club fixture, the one that many a soccer fan highlights first when the fixture list for the new season is released.
Over time the many friendly matches between the two sides - the Vodacom Challenge, the Telkom Charity Cup and lately the Carling Cup - have served to increase the number of times these giants meet in a season. And, according to some in the football fraternity, this has somewhat devalued the league clashes.
The fact that the match still attracts a fullhouse at the monstrous FNB Stadium, however, suggests the derby remains a must-watch match.
But over successive weekends?
This is what we are in for following Tuesday’s draw for the Telkom Knockout quarter-final conducted after Chippa United’s 1-0 win over Bloemfontein Celtic in Mdantsane.
Amakhosi will now host the Buccaneers next weekend in the league cup and also on November 9 in the Absa Premiership - a match that had been the talk of the town until it got the sting taken out of it by Tuesday’s draw.
Chances are that the cup game will be played at Chiefs’ alternative homeground - the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban - given the unavailability of the FNB Stadium. The 2010 World Cup opening and final venue is hosting the popular Soweto Marathon on Sunday November 3 and will be occupied from the Thursday.
The league match will be played at the Nasrec venue.
That the Soweto derby materialised so early in the competition is down to Amakhosi’s poor showing last season, their failure to finish in the top eight ensuring that they are not seeded for the draw.
It is a bummer for the sponsors - who always long for a big final - to have these big crowd pullers meeting as early as they are in the competition.
You wish they’d found someway to save the clash for a little later, don’t you?
After all, with both sides enduring a pretty long, dry trophy spell a cup final between the two would make for a thrilling encounter, right?
But such has been the progress in the local game that those good old days of the 80s NPSL and NSL when it was almost always a guarantee that either of them if not both will contest a final are long gone.
These days even the likes of Baroka FC win knockout competitions while Highlands Park make the final.
As I watched the draw on Tuesday I found myself thinking back to the 80s and the time when Abdul Bhamjee used to make draws as exciting as the matches themselves.
Conspiracy theorists used to say that the flamboyant PRO had a way of ensuring the giants avoided each other early on in cup competitions. One way, they reasoned, was to have some of the draw balls cold and the others warm and those pulling them out knew exactly which to pick.
The balls used on Tuesday were clearly of the same temperature ...
A double whammy? Some will say double delight.
Here’s to hoping both matches deliver top class football and remind those of us who are still hankering for those matches from the 80s and 90s that the Soweto derby is far from being dead and remains the country’s biggest match.