It’s swim or sink for United

2016-02-19 11:45
Maritzburg United players arrive at the memorial service for Mondli Cele at the Life Bible Church International. Cele was killed when his car crashed into the Dusi River on Sunday morning.

Maritzburg United players arrive at the memorial service for Mondli Cele at the Life Bible Church International. Cele was killed when his car crashed into the Dusi River on Sunday morning. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - IT remains unclear if Maritzburg United will lose their R12 million-a-year ­sponsorship if relegated in the current football season, following the Team of Choice’s appearance before the Msunduzi executive committee on Thursday.

United find themselves at the bottom of the Premier League table, and with just 12 games remaining, relegation is starting to look like a certainty for the beleaguered Midlands outfit.

Club management attended the city’s executive committee (Exco) meeting yesterday to explain how they planned to fight off relegation.

Last week, The Witness reported that Maritzburg United stood to lose the city’s investment if they were relegated from the Premier League.

The Exco sitting to discuss the ­matter was supposed to be a public meeting, but journalists were asked to leave the council chamber at the ­eleventh hour as the matter was ­suddenly changed to become a ­confidential item on the agenda.

However, United and Msunduzi later released a joint statement, in which the club outlined the reasons for their bad ­season.

They identified poor coaching ­appointments, bad refereeing decisions, bad luck, the concession of late goals, and the sudden death of star player Mondli Cele.

They added that the “sudden and ­unexpected” departure of Steve ­Komphela, who was headhunted by Kaizer Chiefs after leading United to their highest ever finish, derailed their preparations in the pre-season.

Mandla Ncikazi was thrown in at the deep end after Komphela’s departure and did not cope, while the 71-year-old Clive Barker’s coaching methods were deemed outdated and unsustainable.

While United have improved since the appointment of German coach Ernst Middendorp, they are yet to pick up a win this year.

The appointment of Middendorp as head coach was the first thing the club did to try and turn their situation around.

The club also appointed sports ­psychologist Edward Grey in a bid to deal with what it termed “double ­trouble”: helping the players cope with the death of Cele and finding themselves in a dangerous league position.

United appealed to local soccer fans, even those who support Kaizer Chiefs, ­Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi ­Sundowns, to get behind the team as they look to ensure that Premier League football remains in the city.

United travel to Bloemfontein this weekend to take on Bloemfontein Celtic. They still have games against Bidvest Wits, Golden Arrows, Chippa United, University of Pretoria, Mpumalanga Black Aces, Free State Stars, SuperSport United, Orlando Pirates, Ajax Cape Town and Jomo Cosmos remaining.

From their 12 remaining games, the club would probably need to score more than 20 points, and hope that the results of other games play into their favour, to reach safety above the relegation zone.


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