When Orlando Pirates won the league title in 1994 – which happened to be their first in 22 years – the late Lawrence “Big Bear” Ngubane told me that he had informed “The Chairman” that this should not happen again.
He said that, in his opinion, a club as big as the Buccaneers should win the league at least once every three or four years.
It is with this in mind that I look at the current situation, in which the Sea Robbers and their offspring Kaizer Chiefs, are headed for a second season running without collecting any silverware.
Pirates still have a chance to salvage a season that has all but gone pear-shaped as they are in the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup.
Some dyed-in-the-wool Amakhosi followers will swear on their heathen forefathers’ rotting bones that their club still has a chance of winning the league.
However, the situation looks bleak for the Phefeni Glamour Boys – and I’m using the word ‘glamour’ guardedly – given that they have played more games than the other three serious title contenders, Bidvest Wits, Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City.
Things have not looked good for the two giants of South African football in recent years. To be blunt, they have underperformed.
One knows the narrative by the Iron Duke of South African football, Irvin Khoza, aka The Chairman, that the two clubs gave away way too much power in their initiative that led to the birth of the Premier Soccer League in 1996.
One of the major changes that came with that transformation was that the home side now keeps 100% of all gate takings from their home games.
Another major boost was the monthly grants that were introduced with a revised broadcasting deal that now sees clubs get R1.5 million a month.
But, in my view, these changes cannot be used as the main reason for Chiefs and Pirates’ failure to perform or even dominate. They still command the largest following, which guarantees a lot of maphepha whenever they play at home.
This could be regarded as small change by the giants, but it is money that can easily be put to good use.
You also don’t have to look further than the two clubs’ websites to see that they still dominate when it comes to sponsorship and partnerships.
They are jointly sponsored by cellular network giant Vodacom; they play in the exclusive Carling Black Label
Cup; and they still make a decent living from advancing to at least the latter stages of most competitions.
They also finish in the upper rungs of the Absa Premiership log.
Between them, Chiefs and Pirates count about 11 sponsors and partners, however, there are PSL clubs that have no sponsorship at all.
Taking all this into account, there is no reason for the two clubs to fail to attract top talent from within and outside South Africa.
The fact that you have to look back several years to see when last Pirates won the league is unjustifiable.
The once brimming trophy cabinet at the Chiefs offices now has noticeable gaps.
Last season, the club failed to grab a set of silverware, save the not-so-prestigious Carling Black Label Cup.
All that the two club bosses – Khoza and Kaizer “Chincha Guluva” Motaung – have to do to remedy the unhealthy situation is go back to the time when they were masters in appointing coaches and poaching the best players for their clubs.
That is where the problem lies.
While in the past Chiefs and Pirates were leaders in finding the best coaches and signing top-of-the-range players who were capable of bringing home the proverbial bacon, Motaung and Khoza seem to have let their guard down and are seemingly prepared to employ any available coach.
The results is that, these days, you have a number of players in both camps who would not have dreamt of wearing those traditionally respected jerseys in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
It is high time the two sleeping giants of South African soccer wake up and smell the coffee.
Khoza and Motaung, please pull up your socks and ensure that the Happy People as well the Love and Peace brigade have something to celebrate.
Let them stay happy, peaceful and loving by not letting Chiefs and Pirates be frequently counted with the also-rans.
They don’t belong in that group.
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