The power of the Soweto derby

2014-09-20 00:00

DURBAN will come to a standstill tonight when the Soweto Derby comes to KZN, with Moses Mabhida hosting the equally mighty Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in tonight’s MTN8 final.

The enormity of the clash cannot be underestimated. That all 50 000 tickets were sold out in less than four hours speaks volumes. For almost all South African fans, this is more than a football match. It is the day when a line is drawn in the sand, and anyone on the side opposing yours becomes an enemy.

The hype surrounding this particular derby has been bigger than ever before. Largely because this is a cup final and the first chance for silverware this season, but also because of the fact that both sides are in enviable form at the moment. Chiefs are rampant, and Pirates have joined them on that level in recent weeks, even if their start to the season was slower.

One of the major dangers that comes with building a match up too much is the possibility of disappointment. The Soweto derby has come in for some abuse from fans and critics alike in recent years. The feeling is that the ties are cagier than they are entertaining, with managers so scared of losing and conceding that the attacking intent gets lost in it all and the result is a boring derby.

Doc Khumalo (Chiefs assistant coach) argued at a press conference midweek that the days of riveting derbies, where skills were flaunted and men were thrown forward, could well be over. Football, he said, has changed too much over the years and there is now far too much at stake to go into a match with the sole aim of pleasing the crowd. An R8 million pay cheque for tonight’s winner tells you why.

It’s actually quite cheeky on the part of the supporters to demand entertaining derbies. The fact that it is a derby should be entertainment enough. Such matches should be about one thing in the eyes of the supporter — victory.

A 1-0 win should bring the same amount of satisfaction as a 4-3 win. Big tackles, passion, desire, and commitment — these are the qualities that one should look for in a derby. If all of those ingredients are in the mix, then that is all you can ask for.

Would supporters rather see an open game with end-to-end action that results in a loss for their side, or a tight, physical battle that results in a narrow win for their side?

Of course, we all like seeing goals. But sometimes, a result is more important than the methods employed in achieving that result.

Tonight’s match is as big as they come. We might not see a bigger game all season. Let’s stand back and appreciate the spectacle. Regardless of what happens, there will be drama. Half of SA’s football fraternity will be ecstatic and the other half distraught, and that is the power of the Soweto derby that we should be focusing on.

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