CAPE TOWN – Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano famously described football as follows: “The fiesta of soccer, a feast for the legs that play and the eyes that watch, is much more than a big business run by overlords from Switzerland. The most popular sport in the world wants to serve the people who embrace it.”
So, too, it is in the PSL: whatever we may think of the officials who administer the sport in SA, however they may take our passion for granted, irrespective of their personal agendas which regularly taint the game, in the end, football is bigger than all of them, than all of us. Because football has only one boss: the people who follow it. Administrators will come and go, they’ll take their bloated egos and obscene wealth to their graves, but football will live on.
The 2018-19 PSL season kicked off at the weekend - and, despite more off-field controversy because of the absence of radio commentary on the opening weekend, it was still football that hogged the spotlight (as it should): the “feast for the legs that play and the eyes that watch” was there in abundance, in all its revealing glory.
And even before a ball was kicked in anger, the “eyes” were treated to a simmering scrap we probably haven’t seen the last of. In a pre-match interview, it seemed as if brash Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane and ubiquitous broadcaster Robert Marawa conducted their chat in the Arctic; it was so frosty you could almost break the icicles on the television screen.
Whatever the friction between the two, it certainly makes for riveting viewing and the bitter atmosphere set the tone for a sparkling, emotionally-charged opening match of the season between Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs: football played at a high tempo, in front of a sell-out crowd, and it proved to be a rather apt curtain-raiser for the new PSL season.
Then, it was on to Cape Town Stadium, where Benni McCarthy’s Cape Town City looked rather ominous in their dispatching of SuperSport United.
McCarthy has declared himself as wiser and more experienced, now that he is in his second year as a head coach. Having taken the lessons from his debut last season, he is more in tune with what he wants to do, and achieve, this campaign. And, at times, it looked really, really good: City played some superb passing football and their confidence in possession is a joy to watch.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, though, and McCarthy will have to tighten things defensively, especially as the Cape side proved to be a bit vulnerable on the counter. As McCarthy well knows - in football, it’s not always about how effective a team is with the ball, it’s more about how they react when they don’t have the ball.
So, on an opening PSL weekend in which there was everything: absorbing football, a cracking goal from City’s action man Roland Putsche, an embarrassing blunder by Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands, a win for Black Leopards on their return to the top flight, together with all the drama, emotion and controversy which always characterise this soap opera we call football, all we are left to say is, like Oliver in Charles Dickens’ popular tale Oliver Twist: “Please, sir, I want some more.”
And, remember, when I use that quote, the “sir” I am addressing are not the pompous suits who run the game, but rather the game itself: because, as Galeano suggests, this is a sport that serves the people, and answers only to the people.