Two coaches drama set to continue

2015-02-13 00:00

FOOTBALL players are synonymous with drama. It has become part of the game. They are more than athletes; they are the actors in a star-studded production that never ends.

“They should all go to Hollywood” is a phrase often muttered in the sporting community.

Every now and then, this applies to coaches as well. That was certainly the case at Harry Gwala Stadium on November 5, 2014. A ding-dong ­battle of immensely physical proportions saw Bloemfontein Celtic and Maritzburg United share the spoils in a gruelling 0-0 PSL draw, but the headlines that followed were more concerned with what happened after the match.

Former Maritzburg boss Ernst Middendorp was in charge of Celtic at the time, and near the end of the 90 minutes he had an altercation with coach Steve Komphela after he felt that the United mentor should have been sent off for leaving his technical area. The German’s tantrum continued into the tunnel, through the post-match interviews and even accompanied his walk onto the team bus. There were no handshakes, no pleasantries and Middendorp had made it clear that he had very little time for Komphela.

Middendorp has since parted ways with Celtic, and he now finds himself in charge of Chippa United — Maritzburg’s opposition tomorrow afternoon. The rivalry will be renewed, and if anybody thought that it had been put to bed, they would be mistaken.

“I have nothing to do with the coach, whatever his name is,” ­Middendorp told The Witness yesterday when asked if he would shake hands with Komphela before the match. “I am the coach of Chippa United and that is my job.”

Middendorp, now at his fifth ­different PSL club, denied that there is any emotion attached to facing the Team of Choice, despite having coached the Midlands club in two different stints from 2009 to 2011 and then from 2012 to 2013.

“We just have to work hard on what we are doing. We don’t have to take any emotion into the match,” he said. “We need points, and it is just by accident that the opponents this weekend are Maritzburg.”

The Chippa job has proved to be one of the most unstable in the league, with owner Chippa Mpengesi having shown time and time again that no coach is safe. Middendorp is the fifth coach at the club in the last year, but he says that he has settled in over the last six weeks.

“You have a certain experience over 22 years,” he said. “That makes it a little bit easier for me to adapt than some of the other coaches. I have worked with many different ­cultures at many different clubs. I now know the stadium, the players, the facilities and the people and I am comfortable.”

Outside of the politics, this match is crucially important for both sides in terms of log position. Maritzburg currently occupy seventh position while Chippa are 10th, but they are only separated by goal difference. The mid-table clutter is the PSL is becoming more congested all the time — Maritzburg in seventh and Platinum Stars in 15th separated by just four points.

Nobody wants to be hovering in that territory, and breaking away from the pack will be the aim in Port Elizabeth come 3.30 pm tomorrow. The match will not be televised.

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