Maritzburg are desperadoes fighting for dear life to stay on in Africa’s richest league, and at the moment Maritzburg’s candle is almost out
We will ignore the horrible conduct of soccer hooligans in Bloemfontein over the weekend and rather focus on anticipating the likelihood of South Africa reaching that milestone in continental football history that Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairman Dr Irvin Khoza dreams about.
That dream is the meeting, for the first time ever, of two South African football teams, on a pitch somewhere on the continent, in a Confederation of African Football Champions League final.
Let us indulge the PSL chairman for a while. Not so long ago, Irvin Khoza was quoted as praising the amazingly successful run of compatriot team Mamelodi Sundowns in the current CAF Champions League; more especially the unprecedented thumping of Egypt’s hitherto charmed Al-Ahly over two legs in the quarter-finals of the competition recently.
Khoza was prompted onto his fanciful trip by the sight of the mighty Buccaneers scaling the dizzying heights of the PSL summit which they had failed to do for the past nine years, that’s since 2012.
You might want to know that at present Orlando Pirates Football Club have set six points between themselves and the nearest rivals with a real chance of upsetting them – namely Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits, in that precise order. But that is a big IF.
Sundowns count because if they win all of their six remaining PSL games that will shoot them to the top, over the Buccaneers. In that event, the two will be tied at 56 points each. Should Bidvest Wits similarly also win all their remaining four appointments they too will tie with the top guns but come second on the head-to-head count which counts – matches won.
Now six points for Pirates in today’s currency of the league log is a humongous gap that only the best can achieve in this tough as nails conference. Pirates have been there for a full three weeks or so now, which is quite a long time in today’s PSL climate.
Now to unpack the chairman’s dream. Pirates have played 27 games for 50 points. They are three games short of fulfilling their annual quota. Their next appointment is against Maritzburg United. By April 24 when the two teams meet Pirates would have had a deserved rest of just over a week.
Remember, Maritzburg are desperadoes fighting for dear life to stay on in Africa’s richest league, and at the moment Maritzburg’s candle is almost out.
Next the Buccaneers meet Cape Town City on May 4. OK, these lads from the Cape are no pushovers, but one senses that fatigue is setting in and Benni’s side are not coping with the load and pace that taskmaster McCarthy has put upon them. The same goes for Polokwane City who Pirates play on May 11.
Now third-placed Bidvest Wits have bagged 44 points from 26 matches, and mathematically the Clever Boys could draw level or upstage Pirates were the Buccaneers to lose or draw even one game. It is therefore in Pirates’ best interest to make a clean sweep in all their remaining games.
Wits curiously will come up against three of the same culprits as Downs, bar Free State Stars. So Sundowns’ problem transfers to Wits as well.
Now imagine if Sundowns does take the PSL mantle and proceeds to the Caf final, in the next CAF champs they will likely have to defend their trophy against either or both of Pirates and Wits.
Imagine that! That is what set the good doctor’s taste buds on salivation mode.
Khoza is counting on the continent-wide prestige that the incidence of two Mzansi clubs in a CAF competition will bring to the PSL brand. It would have been a long journey for us since the day in February 1957 when we helped establish the continent-wide football organ in Khartoum, Sudan.