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Soweto derby and a good evening

But in the new South Africa while the rivalry is still intense, people don't go that far anymore, tells Dhiman Sarkar.

sports Updated: Jul 29, 2008 18:47 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times

Twenty-nine years after his first Soweto derby convinced him that he was in the right job, Billy Cooper announced there would be nothing friendly about this. Ninety bruising minutes where even perfunctory post-collision handshakes were rare showed how right the sport journalist was.

Given the game of one-upmanship football derbies are among other things, Kaizer Chiefs will have a headstart over their traditional rivals going into next month's 16-team Premier Soccer League.

In the context of the Vodacom Challenge, Thursday's 2-0 win over Orlando Pirates earned them the right to play Manchester United again.

That's at the Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria near here on Saturday but for Chiefs the pressure's off. Muhsin Etugral has said he would be happy going into the final second best. Sitting by the Chiefs’ Turkish coach after his start to the Pirates assignment was soured by two losses, former Dutch star Ruud Kroll sulked.

Pirates finished eighth in the league last year, two slots below Chiefs. Neither team has won anything of consequence over the past two seasons but in derbies none of that matters.

To think that people have died in the past over this made the setting at the smallish Eastern Province Rugby Union ground look almost unreal.

But in the new South Africa while the rivalry is still intense, people don't go that far anymore.

So, though outnumbered by the Amakhosi (that's what the Chiefs are called) fans, those cheering the Buccaneers sat alongside.

“One of the reasons why we will have a good World Cup is that there are no hooligans in South Africa,” Cooper said.

Chiefs emerged out of the Pirates in 1970 when current owner and then player Kaizer Motaung decided to strike out on his own. Like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal both are bankrolled by the same person — Vodacom sponsors Chiefs and Pirates. But that's where similarities end.

These teams have a slew of sponsors, PROs, websites, compilation of fan songs on sale and connect across the country.

About the clubs and their connection with a Johannesburg township integral to South Africa's struggle against apartheid, information is a mouse-click away.

What cannot be seen or felt on the information highway is the pulse of the encounter, its mood and music.

Rewording songs of struggle by replacing key words with Pirates or Chiefs accompanied by the rhythmic beats of bass drums added to the atmosphere.

When Jose Torrealba put Chiefs ahead with a header, they started marching around the stadium, trumpeting vuvuzelas and nobody complained. The number of people doing that swelled by the time Kaizer Motaung Jr scored.

If only those organising football in India knew what a good public address system and an emcee, even if he doesn't announce names like it's a slugfest, do to making moments around those 90 minutes enjoyable!