Middendorp: I’m only human

2010-11-23 00:00

MARITZBURG United coach Ernst Middendorp admits that his side lost their cool in their ill-tempered 3-0 Telkom Knockout semi-final defeat against Orlando Pirates in Chatsworth, and that allowing his personal emotions to run high was part of the reason.

United dominated the early exchanges of a semi-final that had been controversially taken away from their Harry Gwala Stadium home ground. But as the game turned against the PMB team they failed to keep calm.

This was not helped by Middendorp being red-carded in the 43rd minute following a second outburst that appeared to distract his players, allowing Nigerian Ezenwa Otorogu to rise unmarked to head in Bucs’ second goal.

The reason for the United coach’s anger was that Otorogu had appeared to dive in the area and referee Daniel Bennett waved play on. A few minutes earlier the ref had booked United midfielder Kurt Lentjies for a dive when there appeared to have been a clear contact.

Later United had substitute Felix Obada sent off for an elbow on Clifford Ngobeni. A number of offside decisions went against the PMB team, especially in the first half.

“We started well and in the first 20 minutes there were shots on goal by us. Then we conceded their first shot on goal,” Middendorp said yesterday.

“[But] at 1-0 down you could see it started to come on. There were 14 000 people in the stadium and 13 000 were Pirates fans, which was the interest of moving the match to Durban. We were unable to keep our balance, the frustration came out and the emotional aspect became too high.”

Middendorp admitted his own sending-off might have escalated his players’ reaction.

“I even said to the players in training before the game that I hope I can go in normal. And I think this frustration went on to the field, especially in the second half.

“Lentjies got booked for assimilation and the same was not done for Otorogu. And I said to the referee, ‘What the hell is this? What’s going on here?’.

“It was one-sided. I felt we were on a mission impossible. We have had to learn a lesson from the game that you cannot fight all these guys.”

Middendorp had expressed his dissatisfaction with the game being moved from Harry Gwala, in television interviews ahead of the semi-final. The decision has tarnished the Premier Soccer League’s image, especially given that Pirates’ owner, Irvin Khoza, is the PSL chairperson.

“I felt uncomfortable going into the game,” Middendorp said. “Until now I am not really able to understand what has taken the match from PMB. I know the PSL doesn’t like that I have said this.

“What is the difference between 14 000 people at Chatsworth and 12 000 in the capital of KwaZulu-Natal? Journalists like [Mark] Gleeson and [Robbie] Marawa know the reasons exactly, and they have expressed it.

“And it was difficult for me to approach the game in a proper way.

“I can’t change. I am only a human being and all I can say is that I am very sorry, and I hope people can make a judgment on the situation in a very correct and clear manner.

“I have been a coach for 17 years, and nothing like this has ever happened. It was a huge chance to go to a smaller team, and not a Chiefs or a Pirates, and lead them to a cup final in South Africa.

“And it became clear that this was not likely to happen when the game was taken away from Pietermaritzburg.”

United meet Pirates in a PSL game at Harry Gwala on Friday night, and Middendorp said he has made it clear that his players must keep emotions in check this time round.

“I said to the players in the change room after the match already that this match is history. We need to prepare well for the next game and go into it with a clear game plan and a good structure.

“We are in the league and we need to pick up league points.

“We must make sure we do not get distracted by having any thoughts of anger or revenge.”

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