Stakes are high in Cape derby
TOMORROW, Philippi Stadium will provide the venue for the most important game in the short history of Chippa United, who host Santos in the final match of the Premier League promotion play-offs.
United will be holding the aces after their 3-0 win over Thanda Royal Zulu on Wednesday. The Chilli Boys are on five points, while Santos have four, meaning that a draw will be enough to see them through to the promised land of the Absa Premiership.
The stakes are high. Clubs in the top flight receive a monthly grant from the league of R1m, while National First Division clubs get only R200000.
United have been in existence for less than three years and last season's campaign in the NFD was their first, having gained promotion from the Vodacom League the season before.
As far as soccer dynamics in the Mother City are concerned, United, a club from the heart of the townships, is what Cape Town needs. There is overwhelming evidence of a passionate following. For most football supporters in the Cape, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are teams of choice rather than Ajax Cape Town or Santos. Promotion for Chippa could go a long way in changing this.
"We want to make history by becoming the first team from the Cape townships to play in the PSL," said United captain and central defender Gift Sithole.
"The support and encouragement we get from the locals has been amazing. Our stadium is full every week and it makes it difficult for teams to get points from us. It's going to be the same on Saturday. Santos are in for a tough time. We've come this far in such a short time and now that we are almost there, nothing is going to stop us."
For Santos, league champions in 2001-2002, relegation is an unthinkable, yet very real possibility. The club has never been relegated from the top flight. Top performers like Erwin Isaacs, Eleazar Rodgers, Wayne Arendse and Salmaan King could also be lured away from the club.
Tomorrow could be a fateful day in their 30-year history.