THE DERBY RULES
The Soweto Calabash dished an exciting menu when Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs fulfilled all expectation of an enthralling encounter. Its success has undoubtedly obliterated all negative comments that had previously advocated its doom and trivialized its significance to a point of discontent amongst those that had been a part of its forty two year evolution.
This one was particularly interesting with Orlando Pirates coming from a backdrop of technical regime instability and a discomforting three goal loss to a bottom of the log Santos. Their recent unwelcome exit from a continental assignment had also been a bitter fruit to swallow; perhaps just the right ingredients needed to set the tone for the battle.
We were on the other hand dealing with unsettling speculations on changes in the technical team and the ever present misfortune of destabilising and irrational insinuations of player-revolt in the dressing room. Throughout all these, both teams held on until kickoff time to display their commitment to serving our football loving community with their moneys’ worth spectacle in typical derby fashion.
The crowning moment was when five goals registered another piece of history between teams that will remain perpetual entertainment adversaries for as long as organised soccer remains at the pinnacle of South African’s social calendar.
Orlando Pirates stunned all and sundry by hurtling forward with a three goal lead in a space of thirty minutes; something rare in a game of this magnitude. Whilst we were intending to settle and size each other up, they had already set the pavilion ablaze with well-strewn moves and tactics reminiscent of yesteryears battles.
To the many that had turned at the stadium and watching the game on television, the obvious question that hovered was as to whether Kaizer Chiefs had answers to such an early onslaught. The difference on the field was our thin defense due to absence of some derby experienced players. This obviously allowed the much travelled and experienced Bennie McCarthy to intelligently exploit the opportunities as we conceded soft goals that could have been better dealt with.
I also want to believe that others may have resigned themselves to a premature humiliation forgetting that a game of football has an official ninety minutes of play to thrill.
In a show of salvaging our almost-dented pride and in true derby culture, our lads fought back and scrambled two goals that qualified this derby as a must-experience football spectacle of all times. With the clock ticking and the benches pressed for technical and tactical changes that could have brought some sanity to proceedings, we sat anticipating an equalizer whilst they wished for an end. Whilst at some point the game sunk into a lull, courtesy of tiring muscles and middle-of-the-park defensive tactics, the crowds in the stands kept the excitement on a high by openly appreciating every moment of brilliance on the pitch.
In true fashion, the men in the middle also played their own drama by misreading or ignoring some refereeing statutes much to the annoyance of player, official and supporter alike. In any case we are so used to such inconsistencies given the obvious easy-to-explain pressure by which the derby is known; something that one hopes will be sternly addressed in the future.
Whilst it could have been a great achievement to have won the encounter, we however remain focused on our overall objective of fighting to the finish. May I thank all supporters that turned to fill the stadium with glamour and style and those that took some time to visit our headquarters on Friday just to set the tone and mood for the derby.
For now we shall trod forward like we did against Bloemfontein Celtic at Peter Mokaba Stadium. The host Limpopo Province assisted when our supporters painted the stadium gold and black to help the team fight our redemption battle against a visiting Celtic that had been on the roll in their recent assignments.
Earlier, our Supporters Management and Marketing Crews had done their bid through a Social Responsibility Programme that saw many school children watching the team’s training sessions. Thanks to Thobela FM for supporting the initiative that sought to enhance our relationship with the broader community in the province.
A similar derby atmosphere unfolded when our lads made their intentions felt through constant raiding of the visitors’ danger zones. These could have registered a different story had all attempts been converted into goals that mattered for the lifting of the trophy at the end of the season. It is cause for concern the number of times we failed to exploit even the easiest of tap-ins when the goalkeeper and the net were at our mercy. The two goals were thus not a true reflection of an electrifying match that was almost spoilt by officials that read from a wrong football script.
I would not be surprised if the game is remembered more for its blatant misdemeanors that went deliberately ignored. The keeper that remained on the field after fouling a goal-bound Siphiwe Tshabalala miles out of the eighteen area crowned the worst refereeing moments during the match.
In any case I am happy with the three points and hope we continue with such zest to unsettle those that are currently ruling the roost at the peak of the log.
Our following assignment is an away encounter against a resurgent Golden Arrows in Durban. This is certainly going to be a humdinger; no-holds-barred epic that will be won from the benches way before kick-off time. Besides our known casualties and the absence of the suspended Willard Katsande and Siphiwe Tshabalala due to their bookings, I am glad that we have large reserves to utilize and hope we return with a bag full of maximum points to again challenge for the championship.
Otherwise thanks to all supporters that celebrated our Human Rights Day still kitted in the Golden and Black colours of a family that is hard at work to enthrall on the field of play.
Kaizer Motaung (Mr.)