If the news of the unavailability of Khama Billiat and company for their first Soweto derby match in the colours of Kaizer Chiefs are more than just mind games, then the chances of the Amakhosi overturning a four-year victory drought have been dealt a severe blow.
Billiat and other key players such as Lebogang Manyama and Colombian forward Leonardo Castro have been ruled out of the derby due to injuries but the Orlando Pirates camp is sensing that sinister mind games are at play.
“Injuries or no injuries, we’re ready to play on Saturday. We’re not going to be taken-off our focus by mind games that are designed to distract us from the main issue at hand, playing the Soweto derby without distraction,” said Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevi during the pre-derby press conference at the offices of the Premier Soccer League in Parktown, Johannesburg.
Notwithstanding the popular 70s song by Peter Tosh, If you live in a glass house throw no stones, the Buccaneers were the first ones with a salvo of stones at the Soweto Glamour Boys when their assistant coach Rhulani Mokoena described the coaching staff at Chiefs as lacking the tactical ability of their predecessor, Steve Komphela.
Sredojevic defended Mokoena’s utterances and said he was quoted out of context and that the matter was water under the bridge now. “We’re focusing all our attention and energies on our preparations for the match on Saturday and nothing else.”
Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas decided to be the bigger man and not go into a slanging match with his Pirates counterpart’s assistant. He decided he would respond to Mokoena’s analysis of the abilities of his technical bench, maybe hoping the derby on Saturday will be a fitting answer to the bench’s capabilities, that is, if he bags the game.
Pirates skipper Happy Jele dismissed another of the mind games tactics ahead of the game that Chiefs will be the underdogs on Saturday. “There are no underdogs in a derby. Both teams are on an equal footing.”
Jele’s counterpart at Chiefs, Itumeleng Khune, lamented the absence of their Zimbabwean livewire, Billiat, describing him as one of their key players. “I am also not assured of a starting line-up on Saturday as Virgil [Vries] is on top of his game.
“I may be in unfamiliar pastures on the bench on Saturday but I think it is a good omen that we have two outstanding keepers, it’s a healthy competition and keeps both of us on our toes to do even better and this can only benefit the club,” Khune said.
But the million dollar question on everybody’s lips come Saturday is, who will emerge victorious at the end of the 90 at the FNB Stadium? Strangely, my money is on Chiefs this Saturday.