Solinas has a shot at history

2016-11-09 06:01
Giovanni Solinas, Free State Stars coach.

Giovanni Solinas, Free State Stars coach.

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Free State Stars’ Italian-born mentor, Giovanni Solinas, who is guiding the team to the semifinal of the Telkom Knockout Cup (TKO Cup), is on the verge of making history by helping the club end their lengthy trophyless spell.

The gutsy Bethlehem-based outfit pulled another upset, eliminating favourites Kaizer Chiefs by 6-5 on penalties in the quarter-final played in Durban on Sunday (06/11) to reach the semifinal of the only major cup tournament they won, 22 years ago.

Stars’ other upset in the tournament was the 3-1 demolition of Bidvest Wits on 22 October in Bethlehem.

Ea Lla Koto were pitted against newly formed yet dangerous Cape Town City in the semifinal after the draw was conducted on Sunday. City narrowly beat newcomers Baroka with 4-3 in another quarter-final.

The other semifinal is between SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates.

This is Ea Lla Koto’s second cup semi final within six months under the guidance of Solinas, within just a month after returning to the Bethlehem-based outfit.

The Italian first led Stars to the Nedbank Cup semifinal in May, but the team gave away the golden opportunity to reach the final when they lost with 4-2 to Orlando Pirates.

Having qualified for another semifinal, Solinas hopes fortune favours Ea Lla Koto and that they go all the way to annex the prestigious cup. Stars tasted glory in 1994 when they won the cup in question under a different sponsor (Coca Cola Cup), beating the defunct Hellenic by 3-2 in Bloemfontein.

The cup has proven to be something of a good luck charm for Ea Lla Koto, given their impressive run. Having won it once in 1994, Stars came close to winning the championship in 1996, but lost with 1-0 in the final to Umthatha Bush Bucks.

Ea Lla Koto’s other effort to clinch the cup was in 2012, reaching the semifinal under former coach and player Steve Komphela. However, Stars had their dream crushed by provincial rivals Bloemfontein Celtic, who won with 3-2 and went all the way to lift the trophy, narrowly beating Mamelodi Sundowns in the final.

If Stars succeed in lifting the TKO cup, Solinas will become the second coach to guide the club to winning a major cup.

The first coach to manage this was the late Zimbabwean-born Peter Nyama, under whom Ea Lla Koto enjoyed sterling cup success, even reaching the final of the BobSave SuperBowl in 1994.

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