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No time for mind games

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Buccaneers coach not interested in exchanges in the media regarding their title aspirations

BE PATIENT: Milutin Sredojevic, head coach of Orlando Pirates says that the team has to pick themselves up from a few poor seasons before they can make any serious challenges for the league or trophies. Picture: BackpagePix

MICHO SREDOJEVIC explained why he refuses to take the bait that Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has been dangling over Orlando Pirates by provoking them to openly talk about their championship desires.

“I am happy with my brother Pitso,” Sredojevic said. “We watched Enyimba and Bidvest Wits together. First of all, I have the highest degree of respect for this country – regarding its culture, tradition, style of life, your habits and everything else. As a foreigner I am here to help. Together with the technical team at Pirates, we are rebuilding and bringing stability to the team. I have no right to entertain other things, these mind games and whatever. We would lose focus on the bigger picture if I were to do that.

“Our focus is exclusively on our performance.”

The Buccaneers have been conservative in their analysis of their title credentials, arguing that Sundowns have already won the league so their focus is on finishing better than they did last season. Mosimane called Pirates’ bluff by saying that they are in the league race, arguing that Sredojevic indirectly said so when he said they couldn’t afford to draw with Bloemfontein Celtic.

The Sea Robbers came from behind to sail to victory in that match. But they were held to a goalless draw by their hoodoo team SuperSport United at Mbombela Stadium on Wednesday. That draw has given Sundowns an advantage as the Brazilians lead the summit by three points with a game in hand.

“I have the highest degree of respect (for Mosimane),” Sredojevic said. “We don’t want to enter that (talk of the championship or whether Sundowns have an advantage). We are looking at ourselves. We don’t think about anyone else but ourselves. We are focusing on Sunday’s game (against AmaZulu), we don’t think about anything else. We don’t want to enter into exchanges in the media.

“We are in a process of returning the team where it is supposed to be all the time and keep it there. We had an unfortunate period that in the last couple of seasons we haven’t been in the top three. We haven’t won a trophy since 2014. We have rebuilt the team. We have brought stability and we are on the right road, this is what is injecting us with motivation to work harder and do more without thinking about anyone else. We are only thinking about ourselves.”

The match against AmaZulu will come a day after Sundowns have squared off with Bidvest Wits which means the Buccaneers will go into it knowing what they need to do to keep up in the league race. Even though Pirates returned with just a point in Mpumalanga, their fans weren’t entirely disappointed as they were pleased by the fighting spirit that the team now possesses.

“This year we’ve started to come together as a unit. We are still not where we want to be. But when you see the progress in the aspect of improving our mental strength, we are getting there.

“I need to give credit to my brother (assistant coach) Rhulani (Mokwena), regarding the aspect of theoretical awareness – knowing everything about our opponents and correcting ourselves in order to get better each match. To be mentally strong, this is what big teams are supposed to have. You take that, add being physically fit and tactically competitive – you get a winning team.”

Meanwhile, to make things at the bottom of the table a bit more interesting, it was thanks to Ajax Cape Town’s Ivorian international, Yannick Zakri, who netted the only goal of their Absa Premiership league match against Bidvest Wits on Wednesday night at Athlone Stadium. The win did nothing to ease the relegation woes of the Urban Warriors who still are rooted at the 15th spot of the log with four matches to go.

Wits, despite the loss against Ajax remain in tenth spot. However, because of this loss the Clever Boys’ dream of a place in the top eight bracket could flounder yet again as they are away to a composed and confident Mamelodi Sundowns outfit tomorrow.

Pirates did their title aspirations no favours with that draw against SuperSport on Wednesday; the draw didn’t help SuperSport either. Their 14th position is still dangerously close to the relegation drop zone.

Wednesday’s fixtures came on the back of the previous Sunday’s results where Bloemfontein Celtic – ranked ninth – drew 1-1 with AmaZulu to retain their ninth position while Amazulu, similarly, were unmoved at 11.

After Kaizer Chiefs’ humiliating 3-0 loss to Chippa United at the weekend 10 points now separate fourth placed Amakhosi (39) from leaders Sundowns (49). Chiefs should get some upward momentum when next they host the luckless Platinum Stars on Sunday. Stars, at position 16 with just 21 points, are counting the days on their journey to the National First Division. Their neighbours on the log Ajax have 27 points.

Additional reporting
by Neville Motlhabakwe