Whatever your opinion on the Carling Black Label Cup, the truth is that it is truly a fixture for the fans. Supporters of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates play coach for the day and select their starting XI over months of voting, picking their favourites together in a side that they believe will have the beating of their greatest rivals. The 2014 event will be played on 26 July at FNB Stadium in front of what will is likely to be a sell-out crowd, with many more millions watching from home.
It is a fixture to get the blood pumping and although it comes in pre-season, it is a trophy that both sides are desperate to win, not for the sake of the players, but rather the supporters who have put them on the pitch. “We want to win every game we play and the Carling Black Label Cup is no different. We want to win the game for the supporters and repay the faith they have shown in us as players. They take the time to vote, they get behind us and they expect us to win and we think likewise. The fact that it is against Kaizer Chiefs makes it extra special, but to be honest whoever we play we would be desperate to win, that is the mentality of this team,” says veteran Buccaneers captain Lucky Lekgwathi.
Pirates won the first two installments in 2011 and 2012, both times on penalties, but gave up their crown last year to Chiefs. Lekgwathi says there is a determination to win it back, “We want the trophy back with us, it is important for us as a team to win and we don’t like giving any title up. Whoever the fans decide will play in the Carling Black Label Cup this year will do a good job I think, we have great depth in our squad and many match-winners among the players. Whoever they select will be fired-up and itching to get at Kaizer Chiefs in order to get our season off to a positive start.” Itumeleng Khune will lead Amakhosi into the game as he is set, for the third year running, to be the most voted for player among supporters in the fixture.
He finds that a great honour and says the backing of the supporters means a lot to the players. “I am humbled that so many people have voted for me in the last few years and I must thank them. It is always an honour to wear the Kaizer Chiefs jersey and all the players do so with pride. We will be representing our supporters even more in this Carling Black Label Cup against Orlando Pirates because they are our coach for the day! Coach (Stuart) Baxter can relax a little bit for once and leave them in charge,” says Khune.
The goalkeeper added the players are excited by the concept of the competition and the reaction to it. “It is a great campaign, it is something unique in the world of football and we should be proud to be leading the way in South Africa. The players get really excited by it, they all hope to play and keep a close eye on the voting. Everybody wants to be involved, whether it is from the starting XI or the bench, so it is a great occasion. The stadium is always full as well, which creates an exciting atmosphere,” the national team skipper says. Amid all the fanfare, glitz and glamour, Khune says there is a very serious side to the game as well.
“It comes at a crucial point in our pre-season so it will be a really good test of where we are in our preparations for the new campaign. In terms of our fitness levels and work with the ball, it will be an excellent test because whichever players are selected for Orlando Pirates, it will be a very good team,” says Amakhosi’s leader. Supporters can vote for the starting line-ups of the Soweto giants until 22 July 2014. This year there are two methods by which fans over the age of 18 can use to vote.
The first is to purchase a specially-branded Carling Black Label beer and look for the unique number code on the under-liner of the bottle top or can ring pull. They must then dial *120*764* followed by the unique code found on the underside or can ring pull and then # key, to initiate voting for their starting line-up for the match. Alternatively, fans can also vote online at www.carlingblacklabel.co.za.
On the website, fans will be able to vote for their starting line-up, view their current team and have access to exclusive content about the campaign. Over and above that, two lucky winners, one from Orlando Pirates and the other from Kaizer Chiefs, stand a chance of winning an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They will have breakfast with their team, attend team training sessions, be part of the announcement of the starting line-ups live on national TV, sit in on the pre-match briefing and take their place on the bench with their favourite team on match day.
All supporters who cast their votes for all eleven positions in their team’s starting line-up will be automatically entered into this competition. A weekly winner from each team will be will be selected leading up to the final Section where they vie for the final two spots.