While many are looking at the luminary names in the top division of the country’s football, things are also heating up in the National First Division, where some of the more well known teams are entering the home straight to see who will get over the line first and earn automatic promotion to the Absa Premiership. Golden Arrows got the chop from the top last season and they promised to return immidiately. They really look like they meant that because now with seven games left to play, they are leading the race and are one of the teams who do look like playing their football in the limelight again in the 2015/16 season.
The one thing that their chairlady Mato Madlala did right that impressed me is keeping their coach Shaun Bartlett. The former Bafana Bafana target man really impressed at the back end of last season with a few wins after he was thrown into the deep end. Unfortunately it was too late to save the already sinking ship that was Abafana Bes’thende.
Although that was not enough to keep them up, it was enough to convince the boss that he should be given a chance, which has paid dividends for the club. Another good thing that has come out of this is that Shaun has had a feel of what it’s like to be a head coach for a whole season, away from the cameras and the constant attention of the media. He has had time to do things his way and at his own pace, maybe if he does get promotion he can sing the famous I Did It My Way by Frank Sinatra.
It will do his confidence a world of good as a coach and who knows, he could go on to become one of the tactical geniuses in this country. Be that as it may, Arrows cannot under any circumstances afford to get comfortable in their position, with Jomo Cosmos just three points behind them on 42. The interesting thing about this one is that these two have an equal number of games won this season so far with 12 apiece, but Cosmos has scored more goals than Arrows.
When I had the privilege to chat to Jomo Sono earlier this season (easily the best interview of my young career so far), he told me boldly that he will be back in the Premiership next season. Looking at the way his team is playing and what the numbers say, there is no reason to not believe that statement. The only thing is that we have heard that before, and he has delivered, but then he drops again almost immediately.
Sometimes I even jokingly say Ezenkosi need a league of their own. They struggle against the big boys, but then they are too strong for the NFD. The battle between these two teams for the league honours is really one not to miss because neither looks like giving up the fight.
The one thing that I personally think is unfair and hope the PSL has a look at in the near future is that only one team from the NFD wins automatic promotion while the runners-up have to go through the emotionally draining play-off route. The PSL follows so many trends from the EPL, so I really do not understand why they don’t follow suit when it comes to this. The two teams that finish bottom in the Absa Premiership should just make way for the top two finishers in the NFD, end of story.
But as we all know, that’s just my opinion. Now one other team that we all cannot ignore and certainly should not write off is Black Leopards. All of a sudden this team has surged to fourth position on the log. I did say before that Zeca Marques looks like he’s onto something there with his impressive record this year.
It’s April now and he is still yet to lose a game. Leopards are sitting on 37 points right now, just eight behind leaders Arrows, and with seven games left that means they have 21 points available to them from now until the end. With the football they have been playing under the former Moroka Swallows boss, anything is possible for them this season (just ask Kaizer Chiefs).
Besides, it would really be good to have football in Thohoyandou again. Polokwane City is representing the Limpopo province but the tradition that Lidoda Duvha comes with cannot be replaced. I think we are in for for one hell of a finish in the NFD this season, and as exciting as the race for the title and the heartbreak in the relegation battle in the Premiership is, we cannot for a second blink in this promotion tussle.