Congratulations, Golden Arrows

First of all, congratulations to Lamontville Golden Arrows for gaining promotion back to the top flight, the Absa Premiership.  I did say earlier this year that Shaun Bartlett is doing something special there and has the team playing like they should get promoted.  I must also once again applaud their chairperson Mato Madlala for giving Shaun a chance to prove himself.  I think the more local coaches we have the better for our brand of football.  Also, this is a man who was part of our only Nations Cup winning team all those years ago.

He played in Europe, and has UEFA licences to back his coaching.  Credit must go to him for humbling himself enough to go down to the trenches and starting his coaching career down at the bottom, so no one can accuse his of having been given a silver spoon.  Now let’s get to the premierhip itself.  It’s getting really rough down the basement, with AmaZulu’s good spell a few weeks ago having come to an end.

It’s a bit sad because Steve Barker seemed to have finally turned the corner for the side, even getting them off the bottom into 15th position for a while.  Now it just looks like it’s going to take a miracle for them to keep their status for next season.  A day before they lost to SuperSport United, their fellow relegation strugglers Moroka Swallows got the all-important win over Maritzburg United.

I took the liberty of attending that game at the Dobsonville Stadium because I wanted to see exaclty how it is that Swallows concede late goals in matches that they’re supposed to win.  It played out to the perfect situation where they led 1-0 going into those crucial last 10 minutes.  I thought to myself:  ‘This is the time.  This is the time when they do the unthikable and try to attack when they should defend with all they have.’

They surprised me and played like a team fighting for dear life. They played sort of like how Chelsea won the title, like how Mayweather fought against Pacquiao, with a brilliant defensive display.  People think it’s boring, but I think if you don’t concede goals (or punches), then you’re guaranteed not to lose.  The rest is just making sure you pounce at the right time.

This is the art that has been perfected by both Mourinho and Mayweather.  It will be interesting to see what happens down there because as things stand, if Usuthu loses on Wednesday and the Dube Birds get a point, then it will be all over for the Durban side.  They will trade places with neighbours Arrows.

Another one that’s not out of the woods is Chippa United.  Now this is a club that just always looks so confused, thus having all of us confused all season long.  You just never know what’s going to happen today, and whether Chippa Mpengesi makes decisions based on how he woke up that day.  Now we all know by now that they have parted ways with yet another coach, SURPRISE!  Mitch D’Avray had been the caretaker coach at the club but after their loss against Free State Stars at the weekend, Mpengesi decided to dismiss the entire technical team according to reports.

This for me begs the quaestion, what are you hoping the new coach can do with two games left?  Are you really that naive?  Maybe, just maybe if Swallows and AmaZulu can pull a rabbit out of the hat, Chippa can be the one going down.  They have won only one game in their last 17, and have lost 15 games so far – that’s an entire half season.

They really disrespect the Premiership and for me deserve to be relegated, and while there change their name to ‘Choppa’ United.

I spoke about FS Stars, now this is one fairytale story this season.  After such a tough time with the tragedy of the death of Richard Henyekane, they have surged up the log like a team possessed.  They have won four on the spin, and all of a sudden challenging for a top eight finish when a month and a half ago they looked like they would be swallowed in the relegation scuffle.  I think it’s a good thing for the club to come over the troubled waters, and an all round good thing for the Free State province (well you know my bias when it comes this one).

Lastly, I want to look at the race to finish second on the log.  With Chiefs having already clinched the title, there’s only one more spot in next season’s CAF Champions League, and both Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates are eyeing it with red eyes.  Who would have thought that Sundowns would be in a position where that competition is not such a given for them anymore?  I mean, they were looking at the title not so long ago, now they are not even sure they will have a place in Africa’s premier club competition.

Pirates gave them a bit of a scare when they toppled them last week, but they came back this past weekend to reclaim that spot.  If I were them, I would not get too comfortable yet because like I said of Shaun Bartlett earlier, Eric Tinkler is performing some magic at the club.  Just on Saturday they disposed of another club in the Confederation Cup with an easy 3-0 win over CF Mounana from Gabon.  For me, Pirates takes continental competitions seriously, and no team in my view deserves to play in the Champions League more.

They really went through some difficult times this season and for them to be in the position they are is just massive.  I said some time ago that I don’t think Tinkler will get the permanent job, which will be a pity, but I really hope Dr Khoza can give him the benefit of the doubt.  After all, the temporary gig was on the “prove yourself” basis, and he has.

So with the sun setting on the 2014/15 season, with only two games left, targets are getting tighter, and come the end of the weekend, trophies will be lifted, and tears will be shed.  The top eight will be decided, and someone will be condemned to NFD football next season.  It’s been a great season, and whatever the makeup of the log is after Saturday, I think we will all be looking forward to the next campaign.