United storm into the PSL

2008-06-29 00:00

MARITZBURG United are back in the Premier Soccer League, winning promotion with a convincing 2-0 victory over FC AK at Harry Gwala Stadium yesterday in the second leg of National First Division play-off final.

The victory gave United a 3-1 aggregate advantage, having drawn 1-1 in the first leg at Eldorado Park in Johannesburg on Wednesday. A crowd of around 8 000 people was a major factor in the victory, secured by two goals from striker Fadlu Davids.

After the final whistle, thrilled fans and players celebrated wildly on the pitch, accompanied by an impressive fireworks display.

United chairman Farouk Kadodia said: “For Pietermaritzburg, this is a special moment because we have never had this sort of experience here. Last time we went into the PSL by buying a franchise.”

United will now compete in the country’s top soccer league again, albeit aware that survival in the financially rich, competitive PSL will not be easy. They survived their first season by a single point, before being relegated last year.

Kadodia said the professional attitude shown by United in winning the PSL shows the club has learnt from past mistakes.

Making United’s first season back in the PSL more difficult is that the team have a limited time to buy new players and give their current players a rest, because of the bribery case against FC AK, which delayed the NFD final.

“I would say we are already about a month behind the other PSL teams in our preparations for next season. We will work overnight to make sure our planning is on track,” said Kadodia.

United’s Ghanaian captain, John Arwuah, paid tribute to the fans who roared United on yesterday.

“The crowd really helped us to win this game,” he said. “It was a tough season and very frustrating waiting to play in the finals. And winning 2-0 at home was so good.”

Striker Davids scored six goals in United’s last four pressure games.

“It’s fantastic [being promoted],” he said. “When we were relegated, it was the darkest period of my career, but I told myself that I am going to help this team come back and I thank God I could do that.”

On United’s crowd support, Davids said: “If we can take this crowd into the PSL I am sure we will surprise a lot of people”.

“If we can keep the continuity of the coach and the players and build on that, sign three or four experienced players, we have the foundation now and I am sure we will do well in the PSL.”

Striker Collen Zimba said: “It’s great for all of us, especially those who were here last season when the team got relegated, because now we have been able to get the team back.”

Financially the victory has also been lucrative for United, who receive R350 000 for winning the NFD title. United will receive a monthly grant of R1 million in the PSL, compared to R150 000 in the NFD, and a PSL franchise is worth more than R40 million.

Kadodia was evasive when asked what bonuses his players will receive, saying only: “It will be in the bank accounts tomorrow. Every employee from the office receptionist to the bus driver, the players and coaches will benefit from this.”

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