Charity Cup on a 2010 note

2010-08-07 00:00

IT may be a pre-season tournament, and its trophy holds no official status, but there is no doubt that the Telkom Charity Cup remains one of the highlights of the South African football calendar.

This year’s one-day tournament has had a re-injection of life in that it kicks off the South African domestic season that follows the hosting of the World Cup, and returns to its traditional venue at the super-modern, monolithic Soccer City.

Today’s spectacular, to be competed in by AmaZulu and Orlando Pirates in the early semi-final and Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns in the later game, will be watched by a sell-out crowd of 88 000 in a scene that will be reminiscent of the heyday of the event.

The tournament’s origins are linked to the original construction of what was then FNB Stadium in the late 1980s, when it was more a massive bowl sunk into the dust on the outskirts of Soweto, as opposed to its current Calabash incarnation. One Charity Spectacular attracted a crowd of 138 000 to the then-78 000-seater.

Sleeping Kwazulu-Natal giants AmaZulu; Chiefs, the country’s biggest-supported team; Pirates, the father of South African football, and Sundowns, the richest team in the country, will aim to get their seasons off on a positive note today.

The Charity Cup has also been used to parade new signings and blood youngsters in a big-crowd atmosphere that is slightly less competitive than a cup final or crucial league encounter.

Pirates have some of the most impressive acquisitions to put on show today. Perhaps the best signing of the off-season has been that of SuperSport United midfielder Daine Klate, last season’s Absa Premiership Player of the Season. The classy 25-year-old left-sided wizard has plenty to prove after being excluded from Carlos Alberto Parreira’s World Cup squad.

Midfielder Clifford Ngobeni from Ajax Cape Town and strikers Mark Mayambela and Patrick Malokase from Bloemfontein Celtic can also add much value as Bucs coach Ruud Krol strives to bounce back from a disappointing 2009/10 season that saw his league title aspirants finish trophyless.

Pirates will be up against an AmaZulu side excited by the prospect of campaigning under new coach Manqoba Mngqithi, who is expected to bring greater flair to the team in the fashion of his previous team, Lamontville Golden Arrows.

Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic has complained of not being able to make quality signings because of clubs pushing up their prices when Amakhosi show interest.

But new striker Sthembiso Ngcobo has potential, as evidenced by his call-up to Bafana Bafana’s friendly against Ghana on Wednesday. World Cup stars Siphiwe Tshabalala, Itumeleng Khune and Reneilwe Letsholonyane provide the quality Amakhosi are built around.

Tshabalala will be returning to the ground where he scored “that” opening goal of the World Cup against Mexico on June 11.

Sundowns chairperson Patrice Motsepe has been unusually circumspect on the transfer front — for now. World Cup stars such as Katlego Mphela and Siboniso Gaxa will be bolstered by a host of big-name performers that include Matthew Pattison, Innocent Mdledl­e, Brian Baloyi and captain Esrom Nyandoro.

Nyandoro said Downs are ready to face Chiefs.

“If we were scared of them we would not play against them on Saturday,” the Zimbabwean said. “Our preparations for the tournament have been going well and we are ready to play against any team on Saturday.

“We will also use this tournament to introduce new players to our supporters and, most importantly, the tournament will give us good preparation before the start of the League.

“I must take this opportunity to thank our supporters for voting for the team to participate in the tournament and can promise them good football on Saturday.”

Sundowns will be coached by last season’s assistant to Hristo Stoichkov, Spaniard Antonio Lopez Habas, who has a CV that includes managing teams such as Celta Vigo and Valencia in Spain’s La Liga and the Bolivian national team at two Copa America tournaments.

ON TV

10 am Orlando Pirates v AmaZulu

Noon: Kaizer Chiefs v Mamelodi Sundowns

5 pm: Final

– All live on SABC, SuperSport 4 and SuperSport HD

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