Winning with SuperSport’s young lads ‘a bit more special’ says Arendse

2008-05-20 00:00

ANDRE Arendse says helping a young SuperSport United win their first league championship was a “bit more special” than the three other titles he has earned in a 15-year career as a professional goalkeeper.

Bafana Bafana’s 1996 African Nations Cup-winning ‘keeper won his fourth league title at his fourth different club in Sunday’s thrilling Premier Soccer League finale, after previous victories with Cape Town Spurs (1995), Santos (2002) and Mamelodi Sundowns (2007).

With three of those titles coming post-34, 40-year-old Arendse’s career appears to be going strong. “I don’t know about a long career ahead, but it has been a very good one so far and I have got a lot of success out of it. The main thing is that I am still enjoying it, and that the body is still looking good.

“I will probably have a good sit-down with my body in about two weeks’ time and make a few decisions then.”

This title was also the third time Arendse has been part of a team who were first-time champions. “I never really thought about it that way. And I have to admit it is always extra special winning a title with a team that has never done it before,” he said.

On Sunday, SuperSport were 2-0 down against Bloemfontein Celtic in a shaky start, and in danger of blowing the title. Had Ajax Cape Town beaten Lamontville Golden Arrows in Umlazi, rather than drawing 2-2, the trophy would have gone to the Cape.

Supersport were put under pressure against Celtic when referee Peter Mabuza allowed Moses Spandeel’s 20th-minute opener to stand when the ball had clearly not crossed the line.

“But I also think that we let ourselves down a bit in the first half,” Arendse said. “We always knew that it would be a pressure game, and especially against Bloemfontein Celtic in front of their very good support.

“Yes, that goal did make things more difficult, but it was never really just about the final game for SuperSport or for Ajax, but about the 30 games across the season. And on the balance of things I think we deserved to win the title.”

SuperSport started the season slowly under new coach Gavin Hunt, who replaced Bafana Bafana assistant Pitso Mosimane. They became quietly consistent in the middle then finished with a flourish.

“There was a coaching culture at the club under Pitso, where we developed the reputation as cup specialists, and winning a league title was lacking. A new coach will always bring his own style, but I think credit must go to Gavin for the way he went about introducing that, and to the players for the way they adapted.

Arendse said Hunt’s tough, competitive character was a big factor in winning the title.

“The ability and the skill factor are only half of what you need. The rest is pure heart, guts and determination, and those are the qualities Gavin brings to a team.”

Asked how this title compares to the others in the ‘keeper’s long career, Arendse replied: “The Nations Cup was obviously at another level. At club level perhaps this was a little bit more special.

“At Sundowns we had the best team and we were expected to win the league. At Santos we had a lot of experience. But at this team the guys were mostly young and inexperienced, and it was quite special to be a part of that.”

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