MTN8 raises numbers poser

MTN8 trophy (Gallo)
MTN8 trophy (Gallo)

Johannesburg - Under normal circumstances, all four MTN8 quarter-final matches should draw capacity crowds because they feature eight of the best in the Premier Soccer League.

READ: No radio broadcast for PSL fixtures this season

Well, this is according to last season’s performances, but, alas, South African football is sitting with a king-size headache on how to increase - if not bring back - the ever-diminishing bums on seats.

Games involving Mamelodi Sundowns against Golden Arrows, Kaizer Chiefs against Free State Stars, Orlando Pirates against SuperSport United and Maritzburg United against Cape Town City by their nature, even more when they are knockout encounters, should be decent enough to draw sizeable crowds looking for an entertaining afternoon.

Even more so after the local football drought since last season.

Popularly known as Wafa Wafa – due to the winner-takes-all approach, where the champions smile all the way to the bank with a whopping R8 million, while the other seven participants settle for R800 000 each – the tournament has produced some surprises over the past 11 years.

Why, just last year, SuperSport, who had what will go down as one of their worst seasons, emerged victorious.

Chiefs, who are the most successful side in this tournament with 15 titles over the years as it changed names from BP Top 8 and SAA Supa 8, last tasted success in 2014.

Under new coach Giovanni Solinas - who has been tasked with bringing back the glory, if not at least some respectability to the once glamourous boys of South African football - fans will expect their club to do better.

At the back of their minds, though, they will have the nagging thought that previous mentor Steve Komphela reached the final in his maiden season, only to be pipped 1-0 by the now relegated Ajax Cape Town.

Such are the vagaries and vicissitudes of football.

On the coaching front, besides Solinas, you have Kaitano Tembo, who would love nothing more than to successfully defend this trophy in his maiden season as full-time coach of SuperSport after being promoted from caretaker.

Should they win, it will be the third time they annex it.

Milutin Sredojevic has professed how much silverware means to The Ghost, as Orlando Pirates faithful are known. Pirates are the second most successful side with nine titles under their belt.

Luc Eymael would like nothing more than to add this scalp to the Nedbank Cup he won with Free State Stars last season, while Benni McCarthy would like to make amends for losing in the final last season.

Throw into the mix Pitso Mosimane (Sundowns), Fadlu Davids (Maritzburg) and Clinton Larsen (Golden Arrows) and you can expect fireworks in all the matches.

The sponsors have brought on board football legends Lucky Lekgwathi (Pirates), Jabu Mahlangu (Chiefs and SuperSport), Godfrey Sapula (Pirates and Sundowns), Stanton Fredericks (Bidvest Wits and Chiefs) and Fabian McCarthy (Chiefs and Sundowns) as ambassadors who will take part in corporate social investment initiatives, roadshows and coaching clinics during the tournament.

The next fixtures will be played on August 25 and 26 (semi-finals first leg), and on September 1 and 2 (semi-finals second leg). The final is pencilled in for September 29.

Besides attending matches, fans can participate in the Recharge and Win drive, where they can win a share in prizes worth R8 million, with the grand prize for the Last Fan Standing being R1 million and a trip to watch any football match anywhere in the world with seven of their friends or family.

But whether all this fanfare will result in more bums on seats remains to be seen. If not, the league will have to up the ante in a drive for more supporters.

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