CAPE TOWN - Football often has a way of dishing up a devilish twist of irony - and it’s no different when the PSL gears up for an exciting final day of action on 12 May.
Muhsin Ertugral has always had a special affiliation with Kaizer Chiefs, the club that first brought him to South Africa in 1999. Now, as football’s latest quirk of fate would have it, Chiefs are standing in the way of Ertugral-coached Ajax Cape Town’s bid for PSL safety.
Ajax host Chiefs on the final day of the season at Cape Town Stadium next Saturday (3pm kickoff). To avoid having to enter a difficult, unpredictable relegation/playoff campaign against two highly-motivated NFD clubs, the Cape side simply have to win against Chiefs. Anything else would be disastrous.
Ertugral is fully aware of the scenario - but, because the fixture is at home, in the Mother City, the 58-year-old coach is quietly confident his team - placed 15th on the 16-team PSL log - can pull it off. He also knows that, if they beat Chiefs, the club will secure its status as a PSL club.
“Yes, we know how important the game is,” said Ertugral. “But the point to hold on to is that we have been very good at home. Our form is stable and performances have been positive in our home games.
"When I came in as coach, things were a bit bumpy, but it has looked good in recent weeks. The only problem is that I haven’t been able to find the key away from home - I think the boys have just been freezing.
“But we have been handed a lifeline - and, if we win against Chiefs, we will be safe. That is all we need as motivation. It won’t be easy, but, as I say, it’s at home, and our home form is very good.”
While things haven’t gone too well for Chiefs in recently, they remain one of the best clubs in the league. The Soweto club’s image was dealt a heavy blow after a section of their fans ran amok at the Moses Mabhida Stadium after the Nedbank Cup semi-final defeat to Free State Stars. As a consequence, it confirmed Chiefs’ third straight season without silverware, which led to the immediate resignation of coach Steve Komphela.
Former Chiefs defender Patrick Mabedi was handed the coaching reins in a caretaker capacity. AmaKhosi come off a 2-0 win over the in-form Maritzburg United, which is an indication that Ajax will have to be at their best next week.
If anybody understands the culture at Chiefs, it’s Ertugral. He had two stints at Chiefs -1999-2003 and 2007-2009 - and he will always have a special place in his heart for the club.
“At Chiefs, there is always pressure,” said Ertugral. “They have the most support in the country and every game is important; in every game there is pressure for both the players and the coach. I’ve been involved there before and I understand that expectation is always very high at the club.
“So, as we go into the last game against Chiefs next week, we know that they want to finish the season on a high. They have promised their fans a victory - I know that I cannot expect a gift. We will have to go out and work hard to win the match.”