The citizens vs the aristocrats

Manchester City will unleash their newly acquired arsenal in the final of the Vodacom Challenge at Loftus Stadium on Saturday.

It does not matter that they will be facing Kaizer Chiefs because money is not the only factor likely to set the world’s richest club apart from the aristocrats of South African football in this game.

The Citizens will, for the first time on this tour, show off their latest additions — Roque Santa Cruz, Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor — who will be joined by the vastly talented Robinho.

To their credit, neither Pirates and Chiefs has disgraced themselves or the Premier Soccer League so far against their more illustrious opponents. The Bucs have every reason to walk tall after humiliating City 2-0 in the opening match, while Chiefs will feel hard done by because of the glaring misses of Kaizer Motaung Jnr in their 1-0 loss on Tuesday.

Motaung may be kicking himself for not achieving something close to what his father achieved when he faced Manchester City.

The English team may not have been at full strength but the fact that the locals were worthy opponents against great players like Gareth Barry, Shaun Wright Philips, Benjani Mwaruwari and Wayne Bridge is worth celebrating.

The tournament’s harshest critics argue that the gulf in talent between English Premiership sides and locals does very little to improve the standard of the local game.

Players believe otherwise. ”Playing top clubs like Manchester City is a dream because it affords us the opportunity to gauge our standard against the world’s top teams,” said new Kaizer Chiefs signing Knowledge Musona.

Surely the likes of Phenyo Mongala, Andile Jali, Joseph Kamwendo of Pirates and Punch Masenamela, Valery Nahayo and Tshifhiwa Mbooi, to name a few, must have learned something after giving sterling performances. Both local coaches must also have been impressed with their new signings.

The players who have been given an opportunity have grabbed it with both hands. With more tournaments like the Vodacom Challenge we are likely to see more youngsters breaking into the first team.

Playing against big names in the off-season appears to be the new modern football trend that the country must also embrace. Manchester United are in Asia at present, taking on lesser opponents in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Seoul; while AC Milan are playing clubs from the unfashionable league of the United States.

More South African clubs should follow in the footsteps of Chiefs and Pirates by engaging top clubs as they prepare for the forthcoming football calendar.

The only blemish has been the marketing. The tournament was moved from Johannesburg in 2005 after it failed to draw a full crowd at Soccer City in 2004.

Things got off to a good start this year when the Polokwane clash was sold out, but the turnout in Durban was disappointing. Though the final in Pretoria is set to be a sold-out affair, more needs to be done. Ticket pricing also needs to be looked atprices range between R45 and R150 for the competition.

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Lucky Sindane
Guest Author

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