South Africa’s soccer giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are faced with a different conundrum as they aim for local and continental glory, writes Timothy Molobi.
Pirates coach Roger de Sa is more worried about his players than his next opponents ahead of Tuesday’s CAF Champions League draw.
De Sa said he was not sure who would still be in the team’s employ come the next round of fixtures in July.
This comes at a time when another South African giant, Chiefs, on the cusp of winning the Absa Premiership title for the first time since 2005, are having sleepless nights.
They have just taken six points of a possible 15 from their last five league games and go to nervy matches against SuperSport United (Wednesday) and University of Pretoria (Sunday) with their talisman coach, Stuart Baxter, banished to the stands.
De Sa’s headache stems from some key players’ contracts coming to an end, and him being in the dark about negotiations.
“We are not too worried about who we play next, but more about our players. Our players’ contracts are penned according to a calendar that ends this month,” said a clearly worried De Sa.
“We will at least get a chance to reinforce the team, but from now it’s going to be difficult juggling between the continental competition and the domestic fixtures.”
The coach is not sure what the status of goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs and striker Benni McCarthy’s contract negotiations are.
Pirates were left depleted by injuries to key players Siyabonga Sangweni, Rooi Mahamutsa, Thandani Ntshumayelo and Sifiso Myeni.
De Sa said he would not want to be in the same situation again.
And travelling will take its toll as they have to play six games in the CAF Champions League.
Former Chiefs mentor Ted Dumitru does not believe Baxter’s absence from the bench will affect the team’s performance.
Dumitru, the coach who guided Chiefs to their last league championship in 2005, believes Amakhosi are a team of experienced campaigners who will carry themselves in the absence of the Englishman.
He said, unlike Spanish giants Barcelona, who crumbled in the absence of their coach Tito Vilanova when he spent two months in New York earlier this year undergoing cancer treatment, Amakhosi had been consistent.
He had not seen them throwing chances away in the last two games.
In the absence of Vilanova, Barcelona had mixed results, winning eight of their 13 competitive matches but
losing three. But most importantly, they were knocked out of the Copa del Rey, Spain’s oldest football competition, by Real Madrid.
Dumitru said he was impressed with Baxter’s work behind the scenes.
“It’s not what he does on the bench but during training. He has not had too much influence from the bench,” added Dumitru.