Pressing Issues: It’s D-day for the two giants of SA soccer

2015-03-01 15:00

They don’t come much bigger than the Soweto derby spectacular.

Whenever the two giants of South African soccer – Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates – meet, there is bound to be blood on the dance floor.

Since that fateful day in 1970 when Kaizer “Chincha Guluva” Motaung returned home from campaigning in the North American Soccer League to find his buddies had been expelled from Pirates and was compelled to form a club then known as Kaizer XI, the fixture has provided footballing fireworks of the highest order.

If you have any doubts about how big an event this is, just ask the long line of coaches who have lost their jobs at either of these clubs based on the result of this contest. Some were shown the door despite winning the league title, proof that a loss in the derby is extremely unpalatable for the fans and management of both clubs.

There is never a dull moment even in seasons when pride is the only thing at stake.

On many levels, Saturday’s encounter is poised to be a juicy affair for soccer connoisseurs.

While Amakhosi have opened up a healthy lead at the summit of the Absa Premiership table, the Buccaneers still have a mathematical chance of sneaking into the top spot.

Added to that is the fact that the Phefeni Boys put one over Ezikamagebhula in their home match earlier in the season.

Then there’s the Lehlohonolo Majoro factor. Players always perform out of their skins when facing their former clubs. They always have a point to prove and the Pirates man will be out to make a strong statement against his former team.

And there can be no better platform for Eric Tinkler – who said last week he was ready to fill the Pirates hot seat on a permanent basis – to lay claim to the job.

Plus, plus plus ... one can go on and on. Over the years, the Soweto derby has made or broken players.

Those who shone went on to become household names and stars worshipped by those who swear by the black and gold of Chiefs or those who were ready to die for the crossbones of Pirates.

But many of those who failed in the fixture headed straight for the scrapheap.

Enter Chiefs boss Stuart Baxter.

It seems he is faced with a tougher job than his Pirates counterpart.

Not so long ago, Chiefs appeared to be cruising towards the league title, going unbeaten in 19 outings.

However, they still have to claim a victory in the league this year after a dour, goalless draw against Bloemfontein Celtic and a 2-0 loss to SuperSport United.

In a country where coaches – who are called managers in England – have to double as psychologists, the Englishman has a tough task on his hands to inspire his forlorn charges and convince them all is not lost in their race for the Premiership title.

And watching from the executive boxes will be the toughest bosses in the league, Motaung and Irvin “The Iron Duke” Khoza.

While they may play buddy-buddy in the public eye, it is no secret that neither will take kindly to losing this crucial encounter.

I have been regaled on many occasions by stories of just how much Motaung - he of a cultured left foot – used to abhor losing to Pirates as a player.

The Soweto derby remains the only sporting event that attracts enough spectators to fill the cavernous calabash that is the FNB Stadium.

And the reasons are there for everyone to see.

So, come Saturday, South Africa will once more be split down the middle with black, gold and white dominating the day.

May soccer be the ultimate winner.

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