On Sunday I watched Mamelodi Sundowns play their MTN8 quarter-final match against the less fancied Maritzburg United like a team that has something else uppermost in their minds; things other than delivering good, quality football.
In the end I wasn’t surprised that the end result of 1-0 was in favour of Maritzburg, who have now progressed beyond their own initial goal and move on to the semi-finals.
For their coach Fadlu Davids the win over Sundowns has just raised his profile in the KwaZulu-Natal community to that of a demigod. Davids will not be sending his curriculum vitae anywhere for now.
As for Sundowns, one can only imagine the pre-match exchange between coach Pitso Mosimane and club chairman Patrice Motsepe.
Pitso: “Chair do you really want this cup?”
Motsepe: “Nah Pitso, man pipe down, your wins send me all over the continent. I am not in the mood for another round trip.”
Pitso: “Yeah, OK, ’cause I was thinking of introducing those new chaps we brought over from Pirates and Chiefs to see how they fit in with the team.”
Motsepe: “Ja, rather do that. You still have Keagan and Teko’s places to fill.”
Pitso: “Thanks Chair, I’ll put the new boys to work.”
(George Lebese and Oupa Manyisa exchange high fives).
So that’s how the game was played and how it ended – as though it was a field practice for the Brazilians.
One can seriously suspect that this kind of conversation probably went down sometime before the match in the dressing room. That would explain Mosimane’s happy gestures after the match. If he had to account to ‘higher-ups’ for his team’s performance Mosimane would have found choice words to share with whomever cared to listen.
Contrast that with Steve Komphela’s post-match interview. The Amakhosi chief hemmed and hawed a lot while looking for words to express his unease at having to give a credible account for his side bombing out of the contest at the hands of SuperSport United.
In my book I think the mighty Kaizer Chiefs, like its ageing founder and mentor Chincha Guluva, is suffering from a severe bout of the cricks as it nears its 50th anniversary.
On the other hand, on the west coast, new coach Benni McCarthy breathed a sigh of relief. See, Benni’s side has not exactly passed a critical match test, which is to win a game by their own effort. Cape Town City were gifted a goal by a panicky Polokwane City defender who misjudged the distance between himself and his shot-stopper and instead sent a headed back pass into his own net. As it is Benni is probably thinking “rather Polokwane than me”.
Before this mishap Polokwane seemed confident enough to spar with the Citizens.
Looking ahead though at the semis pairing, I do not see the Citizens drawing on the same luck against Wits.
Benni still has to imprint his brand of football on the club, and add to that the club’s persisting troubles to find a lasting home base, then you have to realise that sooner or later something has to give.
Then, as we cast eyes ahead to the MTN8 final, I see Wits reining in the title hopes of SuperSport, but that is perhaps a semi-final prediction too far.
For now Davids and his Maritzburg team are headed for a bumper bonus the likes of which has never been witnessed at the club.