History made at Moses Mabhida

2009-11-28 00:00

THE players of the team that manages to prevail in tomorrow’s historic opening game of Moses Mabhida Stadium, the Premier Soccer League meeting between AmaZulu and Maritzburg United, will savour their individual jacuzzi baths afterwards all the more.

Fans, players, officials and coaching staff are in for a treat of comfort at the opening match of the airy, super-modern 2010 World Cup semi-final venue.

The spacious, state-of-the art, 56 000-seater stadium has progressed in 32 months from the pile of rubble that followed the destruction of the old King’s Park Soccer Stadium to the imposing, gleaming icon that dwarfs Durban’s skyline today.

Spare a thought for the construction workers. It is too early for them to take a bow — that will surely happen when the World Cup is hosted between June 11 and July 11 next year.

On arrival via the glassed Presidential Atrium tomorrow, AmaZulu and United will be well aware that the small matter of crucial PSL points is also at hand.

It is fitting that a KwaZulu-Natal derby should open the stadium, between the province’s oldest club and one from its neighbouring city. AmaZulu, founded in 1932, have had a poor start under new coach Neil Tovey, but two wins in two games — 2-1 away to Wits University then by the same scoreline at home against Platinum Stars on Wednesday — have buoyed Usuthu’s campaign. The results have seen the Durban side rise a place above United into 12th.

While AmaZulu appear to have found some form, United’s season has gone in the opposite direction, a trend Maritzburg are hoping to reverse under new coach Ernst Middendorp.

United’s combinations in midfield have so far not been able to reproduce the flowing, crisp movements they displayed in four unbeaten games at the start of the season, including a 1-0 win over Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium.

Support of players in possession is an area Middendorp would have worked on improving in his limited time so far. The coach will look to winger Rudolf Bester to continue his scoring form of two goals in two games.

Impressive home attendances seen at the beginning of the season have sagged for United. Wednesday’s crowd in the draw against Wits was one of the most disappointing seen in the PSL.

Tomorrow’s match in front of a sold-out 22 000 audience could be an opportunity to get some spark back into United’s brand, while also showcasing an underachieving and not incapable team to a whole new set of supporters.

AmaZulu have a talented squad that includes skilful winger Sibusiso Hadebe, on-form midfielder Litha Ngxabi and dangerous front-man Dumisani Ngwenya.

Bafana Bafana legend Tovey, who reportedly came close to facing the chop, will want to keep the momentum going.

The grass on Mabhida’s pitch has not quite taken hold yet, but the surface is marble-like.

While the result counts tomorrow, the best outcome would be a match that provides a spectacle that befits its surroundings and for a good crowd to enjoy a festival of football at KZN’s sparkling new palace.

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