At the beginning of every new season, fans expect to see their teams perform better than they had done the previous campaign. Fans expect to see more goals, good defending and most importantly, attractive football that is entertaining. In most cases, that will be because their teams would have bought new players or brought in players from their development structures, if they have any. It is a rare feature in SA football at the moment.
This means fans always expect their teams to do much better. This wouldn’t get any worse for teams a season after the World Cup, could it? For a whole month, fans all over the world were treated to world class football. We could see coaches take calculated risks that paid off, or maybe not, but we were served the kind of football that showed us that the think tanks were more interested in winning than avoiding to lose, which brings me to my point; coaches in the Absa Premiership are too scared to lose.
They apply defensive tactics. They spend too much time on preventing their opponent from scoring than they do on trying to get a goal themselves. I watched in awe on Friday night when Pitso Mosimane’s Mamelodi Sundowns, probably the team with the most options going forward in the league, struggle against a Maritzburg United side that, with all due respect to the Team of Choice, they should cruise past. That is of course if they are serious about defending their league title.
In the last 20 minutes of the match at Loftus Mosimane brought in defender Mario Booysen for Percy Tau and had, some ten minutes earlier, taken off Katlego Mashego for Themba Zwane. The writing was on the wall. Mosimane was protecting one goal, against an attack-minded Steve Komphela. A question to Pitso then: If you have Thabo Nthethe, Alje Schut, Teboho Langerman and Ramahlwe Mphahlele as your back four, why do you need Mario Booysen?
It was clear that none of the Downs centre backs were used to playing alongside two others. And then Sundowns conceded a penalty. Why? There were too many people in the box, I say!
Then came Saturday and Kaizer Chiefs were up against Free State Stars. Here is another example where Stuart Baxter’s side should confortably win against the Bethlehem boys. Well 80 minutes had been played and Chiefs were a goal ahead and then Baxter also resorted to the safety-first tactics as he took out goalscorer Geroge Lebese for defender Morgan Gould.
Later on the day Orlando Pirates and Moroka Swallows faced off in the origional Soweto Derby at the Orlando Stadium. Vladimir Vermezovic did the same thing when he took off Daine Klate and brought in defensive midfielder Issa Sarr. That meant he had Thandani Ntshumayelo, Sarr and Mpho Makola all crowded in the middle of the park.
In their defence, one can say coaches resort to defensive method to save their jobs, but then again, why save a job while not successful? It is time that our coaches realised that even if defending is part of the game, teams that score the most goals and play attacking football are the ones winning titles right now. Last season Manchester City, Bayern Muinch and Sundowns outscored their opponenets to win their respective league titles. And let us not forget Germany at the World Cup. No one could match them going forward and they were the team to lift the trophy. Let us see more of that, please.