JOHANNESBURG – It’s no exaggeration to say the Soweto Derby is the biggest football match of Kaizer Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas’ career.
“I have been in front of 18 000 fans before, but never in front of 90 000,” the Amakhosi mentor said ahead of the Soweto derby against bitter rivals Orlando Pirates on Saturday afternoon, which is a sold-out affair at the FNB Stadium.
The Italian tactician revealed yesterday that during his brief spell as ES Setif coach in Algeria eight years ago that the highest crowd attendance he witnessed was nowhere near what he is about to experience this weekend in a crucial Absa Premiership clash.
“This is going to be an unbelievable experience for me. I want to enjoy this game, it is just beautiful,” Solinas explained.
It’s a game that could essentially buy him more time as the Chiefs coach – it’s likely that the club’s stuttering start to the 2018-19 season will be momentarily forgotten if the Glamour Boys get one over their fiercest adversaries.
Solinas will not only have to check his mental state when he walks onto the pitch on Saturday, but must remember that Amakhosi have not beaten the Buccaneers in a league match since 2014, and failed to win a trophy in the past three years under his predecessor Steve Komphela.
“This game is big for all of South Africa.
“I hope there is no violence. I hope the fans respect each other. Chiefs will try to win, and so will Pirates, but please let’s respect each other.
“I have had big games at Setif against Esperance Tunis in the Caf Champions League, but nothing like this before,” the Amakhosi coach said.
On their poor record against their Soweto rivals, the Italian said: “I am not worried about this because it’s in the past.
“Why should I worry about previous results? The past should always stay in the past. Chiefs play to win.”
Solinas did not want to be drawn into discussing remarks made by Pirates assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena earlier this week that Chiefs are poorer tactically since the departure of Komphela back in April last season.
Mokwena said Amakhosi had made up for the “lack of tactical expertise on the bench by signing quality players”.
“It’s strange that he said that. Maybe it’s the journalist who took it there because coaches don’t usually say this about each other. It’s unprofessional.
“But I can’t respond to this because my colleague is Micho (Sredojevic, the Pirates head coach),” he said.
A Chiefs victory will take them above Pirates, who are in second place, on the Absa Premiership log table.