Two countries, two derbies

Posted by Firdose Moonda

South Africa Soccer City JohannesburgGettyImagesJohannesburg's Soccer City stadium was packed to the rafters for the Soweto derby, but fans were not rewarded with a football spectacle

Two countries, two derbies, two disappointing results. Between South Africa's Soweto derby and Nigeria's Oriental derby only one goal was scored as one country's premier league reached a turning point and the other kicked off.

For two of the more hyped-up fixtures on the continent, the returns were frustrating - particularly in Johannesburg where the South Africa Premier Soccer League clash between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates was given even more attention than usual.

The 43-year-old derby was played in front of a sell-out Soccer City crowd of 90,000 people and broadcast to a global audience for the first time. SuperSport explained their coverage would have a wider distribution than ever before and extend into the "significant Asian market".

With the scale of viewership set to soar, Chiefs' coach Stuart Baxter hoped the match would "sell South African football to the world". He asked the teams to put aside their nerves because "this fixture is the showpiece of South African football and we have a duty to highlight what is great about the game here".

The millions of viewers who tuned in would have been disappointed with what they saw and South African football did not do a good job of advertising itself. There were chances but few of them were backed by real intent.

Bernard Parker had the first opportunity in the ninth minute but his free-kick inside the area deflected wide of the far post. Daine Klate counter-punched with an effort of his own and his shot from a set piece was easily collected by Itumeleng Khune.

The cagey play and sizing up of each other was expected in the opening exchanges but it continued throughout the match. Pirates' goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa earned himself the man of the match award with some of his saves including one off Siphiwe Tshabalala's free-kick.

Tshabalala had another attempt later in the half, as did Morgan Gould to ensure that the log-leaders had the better of the first half. Tshabalala and Meyiwa squared off again and Tshabalala was denied a second time.

While Chiefs looked to turn it up, Pirates appeared content with settling for the draw until 13 minutes before the final whistle. Tlou Segolela was muscled out of the way by Tshabalala and a penalty seemed the likely outcome. Instead Segolela was booked for simulation as even the officiating standards were not overly high.

Chiefs left the encounter the happier of the two sides. They remain on top of the table and on track to win their first league title in seven years under the management of Stuart Baxter. Pirates lie five points behind in second place. Apart from the prestige and restoring of glory to one of the most valued clubs in the country, being crowned Premier Soccer League champions also brings a healthy paycheck.

The tournament is the richest on the continent with prize money of R10 million (US$111,111). It’s little wonder that those involved want to publicise it as much as they can but the exposure they hope to gain is also dependent on the quality of the football produced. South African football is characterised by a lack of goals and its most watched fixture, the Soweto derby, underlined that.

Nigeria's marquee event marked the start of their league season. Enugu Rangers began the competition at the top of the table when they beat Enyimba but there was only one goal separating the two teams. It came in the 26th minute when Bitrus Dada evaded the Enyimba defence and too advantage of their failure to clear their lines.

Despite only yielding one goal, the game was more attacking and entertaining than the derby in South Africa. Rangers controlled the game with strings of passes and good work down the right flank from Chibuzor Okonkwo and Dada. Their brand of football was attractive, particularly when compared with the stodginess of their southern counterparts.

Their coach, Okey Emordi, hopes the victory will prove a morale booster ahead of Rangers' CAF Champions League match in Burundi next weekend. They play Vital'O in Bujumbura in the first round of qualifying for the main draw. Rangers have not won the league title since 1984 and have recruited widely to try and change their fortunes. They were without their Nigeria international, Sunday Mba, whose ownership is still in dispute with Warri Wolves. That dispute, and the league as a whole, will be worth keeping an eye on as it develops.

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