Is winning the Nedbank Cup better than surviving relegation, or vice versa? That’s the question Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) and Chippa United face ahead of their Nedbank Cup final at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday at 6pm.
A lot is at stake, as continental football beckons for the winner, with a spot in the CAF Confederation Cup available for the champions.
Ironically, both teams are in the relegation scrap with only a handful of games remaining in the Premiership campaign. Before this weekend’s round of fixtures, TTM were 14th in the league with 22 points, while the Chilli Boys were second-last with 21.
Winning the R7 million Nedbank Cup final and avoiding relegation would be an unusual treble for both teams.
Unlike the normal treble when a team wins three trophies, theirs involves trying to win the Ke Yona Cup, retaining their Premiership status and representing South Africa on the continent.
Many would argue that avoiding the chop would be the main prize for either team. The hope would be that a cup triumph ignites a revival and spurs them on to positive results in the remaining league games.
Indeed, the numbers suggest that there are more benefits in remaining in the top flight than in winning the cup.
Clubs receive R2 million monthly in the Premiership. Together with cup competition fees and ex gratia payments, the amount they get per season adds up to about R30 million. By contrast, the ultimate cup of the season is R7 million.
The cup finalists are similar in more ways than one. They have both been plagued by controversy this season for various reasons. TTM made headlines for all the wrong reasons under the ownership of Lawrence Mulaudzi.
Reports of unpaid players and a chaotic management were commonplace. Mulaudzi eventually sold the club to Abram Sello in February.
Trigger-happy owner Chippa Mpengesi, on the other hand, continued to fire coaches at will. Early this year, he fired Dan Malesela and attempted to appoint the controversial Belgian coach Luc Eymael. However, his appointment was rescinded following an uproar in the football fraternity.
Serb Vladislav Heric is now in charge of the team, while at TTM, David Mathebula and Mpho Maleka are now joint coaches with the assistance of Dylan Kerr, who still doesn’t have an official position.
The two teams have a tough choice to make ahead of Saturday’s final, but it is a healthy headache to have.