/ 18 August 2017

PSL Update: Master and student go head to head

Safe: The PSL's Irvin Khoza and Bobby Malabie of Barclays Africa Group. Sponsorship has secured the league.
Safe: The PSL's Irvin Khoza and Bobby Malabie of Barclays Africa Group. Sponsorship has secured the league.


The wait is finally over for South African football fans who have suffered withdrawal symptoms from the league’s seasonal break. The Premier Soccer League is back and its future is secure.

This week, Absa signed a sponsorship contract with the PSL for a further five years worth R500‑million, just weeks after the PSL signed a similar contract extension with Nedbank to make the domestic league one of the most lucrative on the continent.

It has, however, not yet been established whether the prize money for the winners of the PSL will remain at R10‑million, as it has been for the past 10 years. Indications are that the purse for the 30-match marathon could receive a generous R5‑million boost, taking the total to R15‑million.

But reigning champions Bidvest Wits are unlikely to be distracted by prize money just yet. They begin their defence of the title with an encounter against Cape Town City at Milpark Stadium on Friday night.

“We got the butterflies out of the system when I won my first game in charge last week,” said newly appointed Cape Town City gaffer Benni McCarthy. “Now let’s get on with the real business of the campaign against certainly one of the toughest teams in the country.

“In addition, you’ve got to admit that Wits are not just defending champions by fluke — they have one of the shrewdest coaches in Gavin Hunt. I should know, because he is the man who handed me my professional debut as a player when I was about 17 years old at Seven Stars.”

The game is poised, then, as a fight between the master and his student. And although Wits looked rusty and rattled by Golden Arrows in their MTN8 Cup match last week, they dug deep to eventually shade the encounter through a penalty shootout; McCarthy’s City did not look convincing against Polokwane City, either.

But the question uppermost on the lips of football followers is whether Kaizer Chiefs will be able to dust themselves off and bounce back from last week’s debilitating loss to SuperSport United when they line up against an impressive-looking Bloemfontein Celtic on Sunday.

Amakhosi looked dominant enough and even struck the crossbar on three occasions but at this level, statistics and beautiful football do not count as far as their long-suffering fans are concerned. Results, no matter how they are achieved — even with ugly football — are what counts.

They looked untouchable during off-season tournaments and one even ventured to predict that Steve Komphela might finally bring some silverware to Naturena, but after last week’s implosion the jury is out about whether the eloquent one will deliver.

Last year’s runners-up, Mamelodi Sundowns, also get the ball rolling with a derby game against their city rivals SuperSport United, who Pitso Mosimane predicted are never easy to play against. Tshwane will no doubt come to a standstill when the two protagonists clash at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on Sunday.