Some of the factors that fed into a rather turgid affair at the FNB Stadium on Saturday include a general lack of strikers and of exciting stars and, well, the usual hype around the derby. In the meantime, Mamelodi Sundowns are just getting on with the business of playing good football, leading the Premier Soccer League and investing in the club. By ISMAIL LAGARDIEN.
There is a buzz around Soweto during the week before every every Soweto Derby. Sometimes the derby is a hit, sometimes it is a miss, as we speculated last week, the past weekend’s derby was a predictable and dour football affair – the buzz notwithstanding.
Kaizer Chiefs started the match full of vim and vigour, then faded in the second half. Pirates were staid. The crowd provided the biggest excitement.
There are at least three main reasons for the increasing dullness of Soweto Derbies; the lack of strikers that thrill spectators and fans, the general lack of exciting stars and, well, the hype around the derby, while Mamelodi Sundowns are just getting on with the business of playing good football and investing in the club.
Jomo Sono, probably the single most successful spotter and developer of young football talent in the country, made several insightful comments about the lack of commitment and drive among South African players – who are, it seems, more fixated on “swag”.
“Our players are now taking longer to reach the required level,” he said. Sono said there was a time when it was easier to find and nurture talented players, like Phil Masinga or Mark Fish, sell them on to wealth clubs abroad, and replace them with equally good players. Things have changed, he said. Youngsters now have other options to pursue, as careers, and those who do take it up, were not prepared to work hard.
“Previously, it was easy to develop players because they were interested in the game. The likes of Mark Fish used to train twice a day. These ones of today train once. You see them with things hanging on their ears (headphones). They don’t look interested. Perhaps they have been affected by the takeover of technology,” Sono said.
The dearth of strikers has been a perennial gripe of South Africa’s top teams. The weekend’s derby was a humdrum 1-1 affair; while some of the most exciting matches can end in ties, Saturday’s game was, well, a turgid affair. Chiefs and Pirates arrived at FNB Stadium on Saturday, after defeats, and both had an incentive, you would think, to lift their game. Add to this Kermit Erasmus’ sudden departure to France, where he has signed for League 1 side, Stade Rennais. Erasmus was signed just before the January transfer window closed on Friday (29 January) and the player’s contract expiring at the end of the season, Pirates had no choice to let him go now, for a price, instead of losing the striker for free in June.
On Saturday, Chiefs hoped to use Erasmus’ departure to their advantage. It was not to be as Thamsanqa Gabuza came to the rescue with his second-half header, cancelling out Zimbabwean international, Willard Katsande’s first-half goal.
Coming into the weekend’s derby, Chiefs’ top scoring strikers, Bernard Parker and Camaldine Abraw, each had two league goals, and Erasmus three.
Former Pirates striker, Andries Sebola, who scored six goals against Chiefs over an extended period, echoed some of Sono’s comments about a lack of dedication. “I think the strikers do not work on their finishing…. Finishing is their downfall. Positioning is their downfall. There’s no composure. “For us, scoring in the derby was big. We used to sit down as strikers and talk about Brian Baloyi [former Chiefs goalkeeper]. We would discuss his strengths and weaknesses. You need to prepare yourself,” Sebola said.
In the meantime, Sundowns remain firmly at the top of the league table, and investing in the future of the club. Chiefs are, currently, in fourth place, behind Black Aces (second) and Bidvest Wits (third) with Pirates way down in 13th – four places above the bottom, propping up Jomo Cosmos, University of Pretoria and Maritzburg United. DM