/ 19 October 2012

Clever boys on the ball

Wits striker Calvin Kadi evades Willard Katsande of Kaizer Chiefs.
Wits striker Calvin Kadi evades Willard Katsande of Kaizer Chiefs.

 And the Phefeni Glamour Boys should anticipate zero compassion in the six-yard box from the talented forward.

This week, Amakhosi assistant coach Doctor Khumalo was incensed that the cup draw allowed just two days' recovery time to his six Bafana international players after Tuesday's outing in Nairobi. But Kadi reckons Bernard Parker, Siphiwe Tshabalala and company should be grateful for their hectic fortnight.

"It's good for them to be so active," said Kadi, a frank and forceful character. "I'd be much happier in their position. They are probably much fitter than us now, because we've had two weeks without playing games."

But there is no denying that Amakhosi have reason to be anxious. After an iffy start and a 3-1 defeat to Chiefs in September, the Clever Boys are starting to get their equations right under wily Spanish coach Antonio Lopez Habas.

They have grabbed two wins on the trot over Maritzburg United and Golden Arrows and Kadi has found his range with four league strikes in seven games to date – including a thunderous volley against Chiefs and a delectable finish from the tightest of angles against Maritzburg. The 24-year-old is one of those rarities in South African football – a genuine "fox in the box" who knows precisely where both posts are when he is facing away from goal.

Kadi racked up 20 goals last season with Veria, firing the Greek second division side to promotion and attracting offers from top-flight Greek sides. But he opted for a return to ambitious, big-spending Wits – a wise move, what with a Nations Cup final on the horizon.

Up the ante
He is uncapped, but that could change soon if he keeps up with Parker at the top of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) scoring chart. Tokelo Rantie's assured showing in Nairobi has upped the ante and Katlego Mphela will surely return to the Bafana squad when he regains fitness. But there should be space for four strikers in coach Gordon Igesund's squad and Israel-based target man Dino Ndlovu has done little to secure his place in the past week.

We can expect a thunderous evening at the tiny, atmospheric Bidvest Stadium on Friday night – in more senses than one. The Students still seem to lack a truly charismatic star in their ranks, but this may be the game in which Bidvest's aggressive spending spree starts to bear fruit.

In the pick of Saturday's fixtures, SuperSport United visit Ajax Cape Town at the Cape Town Stadium at 3pm, after which Orlando Pirates do battle with Black Leopards in Polokwane at 8.15pm.

SuperSport coach Gavin Hunt may hand a debut to new signing Benjani Muwaruwari. The 34-year-old Zimbabwean forward had little joy in his last season with Portsmouth, but Hunt has never been afraid to gamble on pedigreed veterans. Sometimes it works a treat (Glen Salmon and Andre Arendse) and sometimes it does not (Bradley Carnell and Nasief Morris).

In Polokwane, Leopards may well be without their coach, Sunday Chidzambwa, who is implicated in the Zimbabwe national side's "Asiagate" match-fixing scandal – and the fallout from the affair may significantly affect the destinations of the league and cup tournaments this season.

Banned players and officials
Several Zimbabwean players based at PSL sides have been handed bans ranging from six months to life for their involvement in the fixing of international tour matches. The alleged masterminds were notorious Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal, currently serving time in a Hungarian prison, and Henrietta Rushwaya, the former Zimbabwe Football Association chief executive.

At the time of writing, the association had not released the names of the banned players and officials,  an announcement that was expected on Friday. But those at risk include Chidzambwa, Mamelodi Sundowns defender Method Mwanjali, Downs striker Nyasha Mushekwi and Bidvest Wits defender Thomas Sweswe.

Several Zimbabwean players have already been cleared of involvement,  among them, Maritzburg United striker Cuthbert Malajila, Ajax forward Khama Billiat and the Chiefs trio of striker Kingston Nkhatha, defender Lincoln Zvasiya and midfielder Willard Katsande.

But former Supreme Court Judge Ahmed Ebrahim, who conducted the inquiry, hinted that some players previously exonerated had been found guilty in the final report. The association may reduce some sentences, but football body Fifa is expected to uphold whatever punishments it imposes, thus obliging the PSL to enforce them. The January transfer window should be busier than usual as a result.

In other Telkom Knockout fixtures on Saturday, Free State Stars are favourites against Golden Arrows at their humble fortress called Goble Park and Maritzburg United host Moroka Swallows at Harry Gwala Stadium. On Sunday afternoon, Platinum Stars take on Amazulu at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium and Chippa United welcome Bloemfontein Celtic to Philippi Stadium. And on Tuesday night, Sundowns will not relish the prospect of facing University of Pretoria at Lucas Moripe Stadium.