Over the years the Soweto Derby has lost a lots of its spark. Although the media spark and the financial input has grown over the years, the game on the pitch has sadly not matched the goodies the sponsors have thrown into this game.
The Soweto Derby has over the years been beamed to international audiences, the sponsors have continued to throw big money into both clubs and directly into the game itself. There is no doubt that from a commercial angle the Soweto Derby deserves its place as one of the top 10 derbies in the world.
However, the results on the pitch have become an embarrassment to the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and both clubs can feel ashamed about. The last time there was a significant league win in this game was when Orlando Pirates hammered Kaizer Chiefs by three goals to one.
This was during the 2015/16 league season. Since then, it has become a derby of draws. We have not witnessed a league win between these two clubs for the last four matches. This has quickly made supporters and fans to call it the “Soweto Drawby” as a sign of mocking it. Many people calling it an over-hyped game and even suggesting that the emerging rivalry between Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns should be rated higher.
The fall from grace of the derby cannot be viewed in isolation as it coincides with the dismal performances from both these two Soweto giants over the past three seasons. Both these clubs have been on a downward spiral and finishing the past two seasons empty handed in so far as trophies are concerned. The fact that Pirates, for the first time in the history of the Premier Soccer League, finished the 2016/18 season outside the top 8 is a further illustration of the dark times in the recent history of these two giants. It is hard to remember when the last time they were serious contenders for the league title was.
The 2017/18 is in the final stretch and both clubs are very serious contenders for the title and this game is almost a must win for both. A win for any of the two clubs would pile on the pressure on the current log leaders, Sundowns. Pirates are currently sitting in the second spot, four points behind Sundowns who are on 40 points. Surprisingly, Chiefs is sitting on the third spot with only one point behind their perennial rivals. This match has suddenly become more important to the title aspirations of both clubs. This could finally revive the ailing Soweto derby and could once more bring the entire country to a standstill.
Both clubs have been on top form with Chiefs currently nine games unbeaten whilst Pirates have only lost the controversial game against Ajax in the same number of games. Bucs could still earn the points from the lost Ajax Cape Town game as it was played under protest and currently being dealt with through the PSL DC. Despite this loss the Bucs just like Chiefs have been on a roll and raking in the points. The past weekend has seen Pirates hammer Chippa United down in Port Elizabeth whilst Chiefs were held to a goalless draw by Bloemfontein Celtic. However, it would be very difficult to pick a favourite for this game.
Chiefs’ success has largely come from the goal scoring exploits of the young Ryan Moon who has banged in five goals in the past seven games the side has played. He has led the line with aplomb scoring crucial goals and in doing so he has kept the high profile signing, Leonardo Castro, in his shadow. His goal scoring exploits for Chiefs is only surpassed by the exceptional goalkeeping heroics from the mercurial Itumeleng Khune who has ensured that Chiefs wins matches that it should either have drawn or even lost. These two players have ensured that Steve Komphela is still safe in his job.
On the other side the Buccaneers under the tutelage of head coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic and his assistant, Rhulani Mokwena, have seen their form being built on a team effort. It is difficult to pick out the likely match winner for Pirates as they have been able to knit a strong team culture with different players stepping up and pulling the team through. In fact, so strong has the Pirates team been this season that it is difficult to predict who will play in the derby but you can rest assured whoever Micho puts into the team for the derby they will die for the badge.
Luvuyo Memela has been a star performer but the likes of Justin Shonga, Bernard Morrison, Jackson Mabokgwane, Ntsikelelo Nyauza and etc. have all stepped up and raised their hands. The newly signed Xola Mlambo has also quickly endeared himself to the Bucs faithful. Only a serious gambler will put his money down on predicting who could win the game for Pirates.
Therefore, will it be a case of the deadly Moon ensuring that the moon rise early to send The Ghost to bed early and teary? Or will it be the exciting, unpredictable team approach from Pirates that will finally put the Amakhosi’s never die spirit be finally put out? This is the game that promises to finally resuscitate the dying Soweto derby and we can only hope the players come to the party and live up to expectations.
By Andile Chase Namntu – The Armchair Football Guru