JOHANNESBURG – Black Leopards coach Joel Masutha has murderous intentions in the controversial promotion playoffs that are being fought on and off the field.
Lidoda Duvha started the playoffs with a 1-0 win over Platinum Stars in Thohoyandou on Wednesday.
But in their training session on Tuesday morning, Leopards were preparing to take on Ajax Cape Town, who had finished 15th in the Absa Premiership.
That changed after arbitration proceedings found the Urban Warriors in contravention of Premier Soccer League (PSL) and Fifa rules for fielding Tendai Ndoro, making Ajax the third club the Zimbabwean played for in one season.
Platinum Stars, Polokwane City and SuperSport United were awarded three points and a 3-0 win over Ajax in the matches the Cape side fielded Ndoro.
That resulted in Ajax finishing the season with 24 points, moving them down from 15th place to last place and automatically relegated to the first division. Dikwena received a lifeline by moving to 15th place and qualify for the play-offs.
But those playoffs almost didn’t happen, with Ajax filing an urgent interdict to stop them from going ahead and also the setting aside of the ruling of Advocate W. Mokhari in the arbitration.
The playoffs went ahead with judgement reserved and a ruling on the matter likely to be made today.
While that sideshow was going ahead, Leopards still had to do the job on the field, which they did by beating Dikwena and will now visit Jomo Cosmos on Sunday at Olen Park Stadium.
“We just have to kill everybody,” Masutha said. “I know that Cosmos are very, very tough. People might undermine them, I know Cosmos. They have quality players. I think they only lost one match in Vosloorus.
“They are a very difficult side. We need to double our effort against them, put 150% effort and with our quality and class, we will come out tops…
“Just look at the supporters that we had (against Stars), they deserve a team in the PSL. We are doing this for them. We owe them a lot.”
Masutha admits that it’s been hard to not be distracted by the sideshow and focus on the job at hand.
“It’s a pity that we can’t have headphones 24/7 so that we don’t hear what’s going on, but only focus on our job,” Masutha said.
“We are going to try, together with management, to talk to the players and tell them that they must relax and only focus on what they can control. The court issues are beyond us.
“The only thing that we can control is going to the pitch and playing football.”
What made Leopards’ triumph over Stars even more remarkable is that they had been preparing to take on Ajax since they were confirmed as runners up in the first division.
“It didn’t affect us that much, mainly because if you check how they played and how Ajax played against Kaizer Chiefs, it’s almost the same thing.
“We prepared for the long balls, diagonal balls and the second balls. It didn’t affect us that much. It was just a name change.
“I have been in football for far too long. I always tell my boys that it doesn’t matter who we are playing, but what matters is what you do on the pitch.
“We can only control our performance. I believe that the boys have grasped this concept and they feel like they can play anybody.”