Bumper Premiership season is upon us

2013-08-04 14:01

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The betting, excitement, madness and predictions have all started

While it feels like only yesterday that Kaizer Chiefs were drinking to their success, it has also felt like a never-ending wait to start watching the beautiful game again.

Today, Patrice Motsepe’s rich and somewhat spoilt charges will take on Bloemfontein Celtic, a side that has the most loyal and vocal supporters in the entire Premier Soccer League (PSL), but comes nowhere near Mamelodi Sundowns in terms of riches.

While this match cannot be called a clash of the titans, it has never failed to provide exciting football in the past.

The different financial status of the two clubs is the kind of contrast that makes the Absa Premiership so interesting.

The Premiership kicked off on Friday evening with defending champions Kaizer Chief beating newly promoted and promising Mpumalanga Black Aces 1-0 at Mbombela Stadium.

One can expect a sizzling match when Phunya Sele Sele, the nickname of Celtic, and the Brazilians lock horns at the imposing Free State Stadium. Kickoff is at 3pm.

While football in South Africa is considered a big church, what makes it intriguing is how it has the power to create divisions within families.

There is also the small matter of a lousy R10 million the Absa Premiership champions get to pocket at the end of a tiring season.

Besides the Free State clash, Platinum Stars, the surprise package from last season, host the unpredictable Bidvest Wits at Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Kickoff is also at 3pm.

At R40 per head, the PSL still prides itself for providing the cheapest entertainment in the world of football. Well, considering that this means 90 minutes, they have a point. The flip side, however,is that some of the matches are not worth watching.

Having now made it to the top 10 of the richest football leagues in the world, the PSL cannot be blamed for beating its own drum.

Many have decried the lack of bums on seats in some league matches, but people must also consider that a huge chunk of PSL matches is shown live on TV.

The fact that SuperSport was willing to pop just above R2 billion for the rights to beam PSL matches for the next five years, must say something about the value of this entertainment.

Mind you, these rights are by no stretch of the imagination exclusive, given that the national broadcaster, the SABC, also shows some matches on SABC1 and does live match commentary on multiple radio platforms.

This makes it possible for even an old lady in the most remote area to be able to keep up with the developments at her favourite club, be it Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Moroka Swallows or AmaZulu.

Some of these are old institutions with histories that date back to the 1930s.

To gauge just how much PSL football affects South Africans, you don’t have to look further than the conversations that follow a weekend of football. These are held in taxis, buses, trains and every kind of workplace. They also dominate social media platforms.

Nothing gives a football fan more pleasure than being able to gloat to their colleagues over how his or her team “bliksemed” the opposition over the weekend.

And then there is the inevitable controversy that surrounds the referees’ decisions. These are debated ad nauseam without consensus ever being reached.

Think Geoff Hurst’s goal for England against West Germany (yes, there was once such a nation) in the 1966 Fifa World Cup. To date, it is still part of a major debate on whether it did, or did not, cross the goal line.

Who cares? Football fans do. That’s how finicky and fickle this lot can be.

If you asked now which team will win the league come May next year, you are likely to get such a jumbled mass response you would be sure to think you are somewhere halfway up the Tower of Babel.

PSL in numbers 2012/2013

Championship prize money : R10 million

Points that delivered the crown at Naturena: 57

Points that took Black Leopards to the first division: 23

Top goal scorer: Katlego Mashego (13 goals)

Games played last season: 480

Most draws: SuperSport United 17

Scored the most goals: Kaizer Chiefs and Platinum Stars 48

Conceded the most goals: Black Leopards 63

Scored lowest number of goals: AmaZulu 22

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