Field of stars will test SA skills

One of the reasons English premiership side Manchester City is bringing a full-strength squad to South Africa might be because they don’t want to endure the same pain they suffered in the United States in 1968.

At that time a young boy, Kaizer Motaung from Soweto, made his debut for Atlanta Chiefs in a friendly match against Manchester City and scored a brace. Chiefs won the match 3-2 and Motaung made a name for himself.

Forty-one years later Manchester City will once again square off against Motaung — but this time he will not be on the field.

He is the owner of Kaizer Chiefs, which he formed upon his return from the US in 1970.

City take on Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the 10th edition of the Vodacom Challenge, which kicks off this weekend.

It has always remained a question whether such pre-season tournaments add value to our local players. But former Kaizer Chiefs and newly signed Orlando Pirates midfielder Gert Schalkwyk believes that the tournament is an eye-opener for local players who have not had a chance to play against the world’s best.

‘As a player you get to showcase your talent during the tournament and playing against the likes of Robinho is a great honour.

‘You look at what these stars do and practise it yourself if you want to succeed as a player. A tough task lies ahead for us but we can make South Africans proud by keeping the trophy in the country,” Schalkwyk told the Mail & Guardian.

‘I’m looking forward to the tournament and Chiefs supporters should accept that I’m a Pirates player now and I might hurt their feelings during the tournament,” he said.

English premiership sides have had the better of both Pirates and Chiefs since the competition was changed in 2006 to include a European side.

Tottenham Hotspur won the competition in 2007.

Chiefs beat Manchester United in 2006, but lost to them this year when the English side came back to settle the score.

Manchester City, which has signed Carlos Tevez from Manchester United and seems likely to clinch Arsenal hitman Emmanuel Adebayor, will be looking to continue the European dominance. Mark Hughes, the Manchester City manager, has promised to bring a squad that will include the likes of Robinho, Benjani Mwaruwari, Roque Santa Cruz and Elano Blumer.

But Pirates goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs said the big names in the City squad will help his team settle their nerves and perform well.

‘Playing against such players will lift our game and help us mentally. It always means a lot to play against Robinho and I would like to keep a clean sheet against City,” said Josephs.

Manchester City is touted as one of the richest clubs in the world, having been bought by the United Arab Emirates-based Abu Dhabi United Group last September.

New signings from Chiefs and Pirates will have a chance to impress their respective coaches ahead of the 2009-2010 Absa premiership season. Unlike Chiefs, Pirates players might have a tough time, as this will be their first pre-season match.

Chiefs have already featured in two pre-season tournaments, the Premier Cup in Nelson Mandela Bay, which they won, and a friendly match against the Iran national team, which ended in a draw.

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Lucky Sindane
Guest Author

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