Neil Tovey spent many years in the Gold & Black of Amakhosi from 1990 to 1999. During that time, he was part of many key battles against Chiefs historical foes Orlando Pirates. The former Chiefs and Bafana Bafana captain reflected back on his days as a player when coming up against Pirates. As always, it brought the memories rushing back to Tovey who enjoyed some fine afternoons against Pirates, marshalling the Chiefs back line.
When asked about his playing days and when facing Pirates in the Soweto derby a reflective Tovey said, “my fondest memories of the Derby were just what an unpredictable match it was. Form goes out of the window, how well you’ve been doing until that stage goes out of the way. Form does bring confidence, but the derby is a great leveler.
“This game is very crucial to a team’s season. Being successful in this match can get you back on track and if you have been doing well before it enhances your situation. The build up to the game is immense – it brings out the best in players. It is the players with strong minds who do well in the derby.”
The former Chiefs skipper featured in his first derby in his debut season with the club in 1990, he holds the view that the occasion can get be overwhelming.
“When you have not played in the Derby before the enormity of the match can grab you. It is important to settle in because you are being scrutinised by everybody – your fans and the opposition fans. Until you play in the Soweto Derby you can’t grasp how big it is,” he added.
Having seen Chiefs defeat Pirates in the Telkom Knockout quarterfinals at the weekend, Tovey feels that was an important win for Chiefs.
“Given the fact that Chiefs had not defeated them for a while Saturday’s win was good. In the league is where you get tested. It sets you up for the rest of the season in both the tactical and technical side. It is a great chance to stamp your authority for the rest of the season go into the next derby with confidence,” he said.
In his final Derby game against Pirates as a Chiefs player at the FNB Stadium on 13th February 1999, Chiefs defeated Pirates in a league encounter 2-1, with Thabang Lebese scoring both of Chiefs’ goals. It was also Chiefs’ first league win over Pirates since the formation of the PSL in 1996/97 and to Tovey it was an important historical victory for Chiefs.
“When you win your last Derby, it is a nice feather in your cap. It’s good to get over that hurdle like Chiefs have not won a league game for a while now. It was the same situation then I think although we defeated them in the 1998 Rothmans Cup, it was a while since we defeated them in the league. It was good for us because we got back on track with that win,” Tovey reflected.
The man who skippered Bafana Bafana to glory at the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations had a final message to the Chiefs players who will be featuring at the FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon, “I say enjoy the occasion and do your best. I loved the week of the Derby the build-up to the game, it was always the talk of the town and the atmosphere was unbelievable”.