‘People must stop counting games in hand as points already won’

2014-04-19 00:00

ONE of my favourite wisecracks is “most of us can read the writing on the wall; we just assume it’s addressed to someone else”.

Wise words indeed that you would expect people to take seriously and learn from, but no, they don’t.

This thought came to mind after the 2014 Nedbank semi-

final draw was completed on Monday.

No sooner had the draw separated Soweto giants — Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates who will face Wits and Maritzburg United respectively — than people were talking of a possibility of a Soweto Derby final.

What happened to not counting one’s chickens before they hatch?

How many times has football thrown a ridiculous curve ball to the followers of the game of the pig skin?

I mean, talk of a Chiefs versus Pirates final is pretty premature and people should take a leaf from a late South African politician — whose name will remain unmentioned — and “double-cross that bridge” when they get there, if you get my drift.

This thing of crossing a bridge before getting to it must stop.

The two clubs — Wits and Maritzburg — have just as equal a chance as the two giants to reach the final. So for now, as they say in Diski lingo, it’s a 50-50 chance for any of the four clubs to get to the final.

Taking the draw as a done deal that Amakhosi and the Buccaneers are already in the final, is similar to those who count matches in hand as points won already.

This is another annoying trend in football where people start calculating that should their club win the remaining matches, they will win the league.

People don’t even have to look any further than what has happened to the same Pirates and to some degree Mamelodi Sundowns during this current season.

At some stage, Pirates had so many games in hand that their followers started calculating and saying that if they won them all, they would be on top of the log.

Every soccer fan worth their salt knows what happened to that notion.

And then it was Sundowns with games in hand. And we also know what happened there.

Right now it is Chiefs who are trailing Sundowns by a game and three points, and already one can hear the Amakhosi faithful sing that old tune “if we win our game in hand, then we will be equal on points and finish above them as we have a better goal difference”.

That is a serious case of counting one’s chickens before the eggs are hatched.

As every coach would stress, it is important for clubs — and this needs to be drilled into players’ ears — to take each game as it comes.

I was impressed with Liverpool skipper Steve Gerrard’s comments after Sunday’s epic battle between his club and Manchester City. After opening a seven point-gap between them and City who have two games in hand, Gerrard said: “We now have four cup finals to play”, meaning the four league games that The Reds still need to go through before the season ends.

That should be the spirit. He did not say that even if City won the two games they have in hand, they would still be a point behind Liverpool.

This is irrelevant. Reality is how Liverpool fare in their last four games.

This should be the spirit here at home as well. People should stop this nonsense of counting games in hand as points already won.

On the Nedbank Cup, the reality check is that there are still semi-finals to be played and then there can be talk of a Soweto Derby should Chiefs and Pirates win. Any talk of this right now is pretty premature.

• S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa’s leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press sports editor.

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