TUNNEL WARS - Ernst v Steve

2014-11-07 00:00

BLOEMFONTEIN Celtic coach Ernst Middendorp left Harry Gwala Stadium in a fit of rage on Wednesday night after a dramatic altercation with Maritzburg United boss Steve Komphela.

The sides had played out to an intriguing 0-0 draw that at times resembled a game of chess as the two tacticians, both much respected in South African football circles, ran out of moves and the match ended in a stalemate.

Middendorp, an iconic figure at Harry Gwala after two stints as manager of United, had a night to forget.

Perhaps the first sign came as early as two minutes in, when referee Victor Hlongwane instructed the German to get rid of his extravagant black coat because it clashed with the Celtic kit. It has never taken much to rile Middendorp and he caused a few chuckles in the grandstand when he belligerently threw the coat to the turf in an all-too-familiar fashion.

But the real drama came as full time approached.

Komphela had taken issue with one of Hlongwane’s decisions and defiantly left his demarcated technical area to voice his concerns to the fourth official on the halfway line. This sent Middendorp hysterical — his protests aimed at getting Komphela removed from the touchline.

But Komphela was just the recipient of a stern warning from Hlongwane and Middendorp was left convinced the football gods were out to get him.

“I have stepped only one foot out of the area and I got a red card, I am definitely irritated,” Middendorp fumed after the match.

“What is going on? Is it that one coach can do it and another cannot? I don’t understand what’s going on with this guy.”

Komphela acknowledged he had stepped out of line and attempted to explain his frustration. “There were three instances where I felt the referee could have made calls.

“There was a tackle on the far left, another tackle centrally in the final third and then they got on to attack with a ball played from the hand of [Wayde] Jooste,” Komphela said.

“Now they are playing football with hands? That is when I started protesting. So when I stood in the middle, which I know is unsporting, I spent time there just to draw attention from the referee because things were getting a little bit intense.”

That was not where the drama ended.

After the match, in the tunnel, there was more animosity.

Middendorp extended a hand to Komphela, who appeared oblivious to his presence while engaged in another conversation.

The result was another animated outburst from Middendorp. “Why is he showing me the shoulder? What is his problem?

“Why is he showing such an arrogant position?

“I have much, much more to do in terms of thinking. I wish him good luck to do whatever he wants to do.

“This is not my level,” he yelled on his way down the tunnel towards the team bus and a long, winless trip back to Bloemfontein.

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