It is almost Soweto derby time, and it deserves all the hype that goes with it, as the grandest game in the country brings 90 000 people together at FNB Stadium.
And yet, this footballing week is tainted with utter tragedy, following the death of Ajax Cape Town right back Cecil Lolo in the early hours of Sunday morning. Only a few weeks ago I was stood in the bowels of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, interviewing Lolo after he had contributed amazingly to the Urban Warriors’ amazing 1-0 win over Kaizer Chiefs in the MTN8 final.
At 27, this was a young man having his best ever season in South African football, and now career has been cut tragically short in its prime. Gift Leremi and Lesley Manyathela and Richard Henyekane are three other South African talents that immediately spring to mind as also having their careers ended on the roads of this country.
I have no idea who was responsible in any of these incidents but what I do know is that it is unacceptable that so many talented South Africans have been killed in this way. I also know that death toll statistics in terms of vehicle accidents every year in South African are horrific, with no sign of diminishing, and that it is a matter that never seems to be properly addressed.
Incredibly, yesterday also marked a year to the day that Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa was gunned down in Vosloorus, another tragic victim to another South African problem – violent crime. Meyiwa was also 27 when he died.
It is difficult at times like this to focus on on-the-field matters – Ajax have, understandably, had both their games postponed this week, and there will no doubt be minutes of silence at games all over the country. And yet the show, inevitably, has to go on too, and Chiefs and Pirates both face tricky fixtures this week ahead of Saturday’s derby.
In this week’s Phakaaathi we take a look at the midweek games, with an obvious focus on the major action at FNB Stadium on Saturday. We speak to Orlando Pirates youngster Menzi Masuku, who has a burning desire to shine in the derby, though it will be interesting to see if he plays, given his recent poor form. We also speak to young Chiefs defender Lorenzo Gordinho, who has Pirates roots, but who is now firmly ensconced in the Amakhosi camp.
Both Gordinho and Masuku, interestingly, could be key members of the South African side trying to qualify for the Rio Olympics next year. Trying to keep their jobs on a seemingly weekly basis, meanwhile, are Pirates coach Eric Tinkler and Chiefs coach Steve Komphela. Both have had some success this season, but at Naturena and the Buccaneers you pretty much have to win on a weekly basis to keep the fans happy.
A victory for either in the Soweto derby on Saturday should at least stave off the wolves until … the Telkom Knockout semifinal between Chiefs and Pirates the following weekend! Elsewhere in this week’s Phakaaathi, our regular Mgosi section brings you news on a certain Pirates striker who might not extend his contract beyond the end of this season.
And we take a look at the real reason why Mbulelo Mabizela decided not to join Maritzburg United. We also speak to youngster Sikhumbuzo Mazibuko, who is playing with Vasco Da Gama in the National First Division this season, after coming through the renowned SuperSport academy.
We also bring you all the latest from the weekend’s games in both the NFD and the Multichoice Diski Challenge. And we look ahead to all the Absa Premiership action this week, including a big game for Polokwane City against the Brazilians of Sundowns.