Soweto Derby a blockbuster for all of Africa

The Soweto Derby is firmly entrenched on the global football calendar as one of those massive grudge matches you simply have to tune in to and be a part of.

Host broadcaster, SuperSport, have pulled out all the stops for this weekend’s Kaizer Chiefs-Orlando Pirates DStv Premiership clash, with a 21 camera set-up which includes the very best in slo-mo and goal-line cameras ensuring every angle is covered for South African football’s biggest match.

The broadcast of the game across the African continent will have all the technological bells and whistles, with Supersport executive producer Sifiso Mbambo promising fans “the ultimate experience from the comfort of their own homes”.

Player tracking technology and comprehensive player statistics (heat maps, average speed, top speed and ground covered) will be central to the coverage, as well augmented reality for team tactics and formations, plus virtual advertising and virtual crowd replacement given the continued limits on crowds.

It’s the kind of Hollywood blockbuster coverage and build-up SuperSport anchor and Amakhosi fan, Chisom Mbonu-Ezeoke says, which has football-mad Nigerians hooked on and glued to the Soweto Derby.

“Nigerians are people who love their football a lot. In Nigeria we follow mostly the European leagues and the Nigerian league, but the Soweto Derby is one of those derbies we talk about and that people watch here. That was even before Daniel Akpeyi arrived at Kaizer Chiefs. Nigerians have really been mesmerized by the way the Soweto Derby was packaged, the build up to it, what we see on television, how many cameras there are in terms of production. It’s pretty big in Nigeria. In the lead up to it, people do talk about it, especially now that we have Daniel playing in the Derby. It’s something Nigerians definitely look forward to watching,” Mbonu-Ezeoke told www.kaizerchiefs.com this week.

Such is the interest in the Soweto Derby that SuperSport have in the past provided commentary in Portuguese and Swahili to cater for its broad continental appeal. Having players like Akpeyi, Zimbabwe’s Khama Billiat, Kenya’s Anthony Akumu and Zambia’s Lazalous Kambole further generates interest from those countries keen to see their compatriots’ progress in the Soweto Derby.

For renowned football commentator and journalist, Mark Gleeson, the Soweto Derby is “definitely amongst the best” fixtures in world football.

“Soccer City would have attracted over 90 000 fans to the Soweto Derby had they been allowed to attend the game. Just in terms of its size and capacity, and the number of people who watch it at the stadium and on television around the world, it certainly has its status. In some of the international publications who have done features on the world’s most influential derbies, this one has certainly featured there,” Gleeson told www.kaizerchiefs.com.

For one of world football’s most astute statisticians, Gleeson has lost count of the number of Soweto Derbies he’s attended.

“I went to my first Soweto Derby at Ellis Park in 1984 when Teenage Dladla scored a late penalty to win the Mainstay Cup final for Chiefs against Pirates. I’ve been to Soweto Derbies in Orlando, Ellis Park, FNB Stadium, Mmabatho and Durban. I’ve watched a lot of derbies. I was there when Mabhuti Khenyeza scored a goal in 17 seconds and when Jerry Sikhosana scored a hat trick in the Derby,” Gleeson recalls fondly.

The veteran commentator says this weekend’s Soweto Derby will be a game between “two wounded lions”.

“Both sides are looking for a bit of form. They haven’t performed to their full potential this season and both sides are looking for a morale booster from the Derby. It’s a very important derby for both teams,” says Gleeson.

For Mbonu-Ezeoke, while she’s a neutral sports anchor who is a consummate professional, given that she doesn’t currently work on the DStv Premiership, she has no qualms declaring her Gold and Black allegiances.

“In Nigeria I am a huge Rangers fan, as they are the club from my hometown. And Kaizer Chiefs too has a very special place in my heart. They’re my second team I support in Africa. I’m really rooting for them. I hope Chiefs go into the Soweto Derby with that determination and hunger to win. I’m an Amakhosi 4Life! Chiefs, don’t let me down. I need that win, I do,” Mbonu-Ezeoke says, her excitement palpable ahead of the big clash.

On a national level, she is “extremely proud” of Akpeyi.

“Nigerians are a very tough crowd to please when it comes to the national team. Daniel has got a lot of stick over the years in terms of performance. So, to see him now being spoken of in a better light because of his performances at Chiefs is something I am very happy and pleased about. People wondered what Chiefs saw in him when they bought him, but I knew what they saw. Daniel has some great reflexes. When saves look impossible, he will make those saves,” says Mbonu-Ezeoke.