JOHANNESBURG - Orlando Pirates’ fans are a lot like petrol, at their best they fuel the club to great heights and at their worst they are a flammable force that wreaks serious havoc.
Loftus Versfeld can attest to the havoc the Ghost can wreak. Last season a mob of Pirates’ fans invaded the pitch during the 6-0 drubbing by Mamelodi Sundowns. The invasion and the violent scenes that followed afterwards were in protest of their team’s meek performance and how the club had taken long to appoint a permanent coach.
More than a year later, the Premier Soccer League’s disciplinary committee sentenced the club to playing two matches behind closed doors. One of those was suspended on the condition they are not found guilty of a similar offence within a year. The crowdless match takes place against Bidvest Wits at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday night.
Since Micho Sredojevic’s arrival at Pirates the Ghost have been a positive influence on the club. Orlando Stadium is slowly becoming the fortress it once was in the Buccaneers’ back-to-back domestic treble winning seasons.
The Buccaneers have a never-say-die attitude that has seen them transform from having their worst season in the PSL era last season to now pushing Sundowns in the league race. The club’s performance under the Serbian coach has made their fans able to accept negative results.
“Orlando Pirates’ supporters are one of the most demanding in the continent,” Sredojevic said after the goalless draw with SuperSport United. “They demand two things, good football and winning.
"We gave them a half product against SuperSport. But they have a million and one reasons to be happy because of what has happened to this team and how we are playing. I believe that no team can win everything at once.
"We are still in a process of bringing stability and putting a stamp of who we are and what we are about. I am convinced that all our realistic supporters are happy with the players’ effort, commitment, dedication and hard work and the way they are respecting the badge and jersey. The rest of the things will come.”
With the league title slowly moving out of Pirates’ reach, their other target is to secure second place to qualify for the Caf Champions League. Club and coach have unfinished business in the continent.
Pirates have lost two finals, the 2013 Champions League and 2015 Caf Confederation Cup. Sredojevic has been to four semifinals, including with Pirates in 2006. His time with the Buccaneers is a chance for Sredojevic to finally conquer the continent.
Qualifying for the Champions League would further improve Sredojevic’s good relationship with the club’s fans. For that to happen they have to beat a Wits side that is winless in their last four matches in all competitions.
“Every year when we go to Pirates we normally end up with nine or ten players,” Wits’ coach Gavin Hunt said. “Maybe it will be the same and we will get a result a player short like we have done in the past.”