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Thursday, August 18, 2022

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Orlando Pirates out to pluck Swallows’ feathers in 'Original Soweto Derby'

Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro and Swallows’ Dylan Kerr go head-to-head at the Orlando Stadium this afternoon. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro and Swallows’ Dylan Kerr go head-to-head at the Orlando Stadium this afternoon. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Published Aug 6, 2022


Cape Town – Encounters between Orlando Pirates and Moroka Swallows enjoy the distinctive title of the "Original Soweto Derby", and Saturday's Premiership pipe-opener will stir memories of bygone days when the then-Transvaal region came to a standstill on match days.


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This afternoon (start 3pm), Pirates will host Swallows at the Orlando Stadium, which has earned the nickname "Slaughterhouse". For many years, the stadium became Pirates' fortress, and they dominated in the early days of football in the province.

Pirates were founded in 1937, and a decade later, in another part of Soweto, Swallows came into being. Their matches did not capture the imagination straight away, but after the teams grew in popularity, the "Original Soweto Derby" became a classic, and unfortunately in one instance, a matter of life and death.

Being the more established club, Pirates dominated the local competition and made a clean sweep of the silverware on offer until the mid-1950s, when Swallows started asserting themselves. Many of the Swallows players hailed from Jabavu, and they made their presence felt when they clashed with Pirates in a Transvaal Cup match in Natalspruit on the East Rand.

The "Beautiful Birds", one of the nicknames given by adoring fans, shocked Pirates to win the Transvaal Challenge Cup clash 6-5. And Swallows became the first opposition team to net six goals in a match against Pirates.

For the romantics, the Pirates team that day included legends such as Sam "Baboon Shepherd" Shabangu, Willard "Ndoda" Msomi, Elliot "Buick" Buthelezi, Sydney "Ladies Man" Mabuza and Jimmy "Hitler" Sobi.

Swallows too had their heroes, who whipped the crowd into a frenzy every time they merely touched the ball.

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Their star players included Essau "Inch by Inch" Madi, Samuel "Aarah" Gumede, Paulos "Bobby Locke" Khausole, Joseph "Carlton" Moloi (a prolific scorer who later left to play in the UK for Cardiff City) and the acrobatic goalkeeper Abraham "Al Die Hoekies" Meyers.

A reflection of past meetings between Soweto's first two "big" teams would not be complete without mentioning the tragedy of the 1962 derby. After the match, 11 supporters died at Jeppe Station, Johannesburg, following a clash of fans.

Saturday's match will not arouse emotions like in the past, but teams still enjoy passionate support. Over the years, Pirates and Swallows have played second fiddle to Soweto's other team, Kaizer Chiefs.

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Pirates have roped in the Spaniard coach Jose Riveiro to spearhead their campaign. They have brought in Tapelo Xoki (AmaZulu), Nkosinathi Sibisi (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Bienvenu Eva Nga, Evidence Makgopa (Baroka FC) and Miguel Timm (Marumo Gallants) to bolster their campaign after off-loading 14 players.

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Swallows have turned to Englishman Dylan Kerr to guide them this season, after he pulled off a "Houdini Act" to help them avoid relegation.

The club has had its fair share of administrative problems in recent years and this has affected its fortunes on the playing field.

Swallows have turned to the transfer market to bolster their squad and have acquired Keegan Allan (University Pretoria), Lindokuhle Mtshali (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Thakasani Mbanjwa (University of Pretoria), Waseem Isaacs (Stellenbosch FC), Thato Makua (Kaizer Chiefs), Lebohang Lesako, Darrel Matsheke (Kaizer Chiefs, loan) and Kwanda Mngonyama (Orlando Pirates).

On the evidence of last season's record, Pirates, on home soil, look set to make a winning start to the new Premiership season.