brace yourself for a scorcher

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

The acquisition of top class players by various Premiership clubs has raised the hopes that the 2008-2009 soccer season will be more competitive than ever.

All the 16 clubs, including newcomers Maritzburg United and Bay United, have tightened up all their departments in terms of their needs.

PSL chairman Irvin Khoza said: "It will be a tough and exciting season, great times for the supporters because all our clubs have all reinforced.

"The other thing is that we have a compliance, marketing and broadcasting manual to ensure that things are done in a more professional way."

Khoza attributed clubs venturing more freely into the transfer market to the R2 million ex gratia payment given to each of the Premiership clubs at the end of last season.

Of all the clubs that delved into the market, it goes without saying that Mamelodi Sundowns will start as hot favourites to win the R10 million league first prize.

Patrice "Ngwana Ko Hae" Motsepe, Sundowns' president, cannot be blamed for giving a mandate to his expensively assembled troops to sweep the boards.

Motsepe has splashed out an estimated R30 million to recruit big names like Sibusiso Zuma, Benedict Vilakazi, Siboniso Gaxa, Katlego Mphela and Collins Mbesuma.

The only factor that could count against Sundowns is the number of coaches shouting instructions from their bench. Besides head coach Trott Moloto, Sundowns also have the likes of Harris Choeu, Simon Ngomane and master player developer, Ted Dumitru.

With Downs already in the MTN8 final against Kaizer Chiefs, fans cannot be faulted for dreaming that winning Wafa Wafa will be the beginning of good things to come.

The other concern is that Sundowns seem to target all players that strike form, but the problem is that most of them end up kicking their heels at Chloorkop.

Already opposition fans joke that Motsepe is desperately looking for the telephone numbers of one unstoppable Usain Bolt of Jamaica.

As we weigh up Sundowns' chances of lifting the league title, it will not to be smart to dismiss SuperSport United. The league champions off-loaded some of their key players, like Gaxa, Mphela and the young Kermit Erasmus, but chairman Khulu Sibiya was not selfish either.

Sibiya and his board used the money wisely by signing equally talented players Anthony Laffour, Glen Salmon, Oscar Ntwagae, Hlopho Kekana and Morgan Gould.

United might have not done well in Wafa Wafa after losing to Downs via the away goal rule, but have the potential to reach great heights again this season.

Anyone writing off Orlando Pirates would be doing so at their own peril this time around.

It is clear the message from chairman Khoza to their supporters, The Ghost, is clear - "your complaints did not fall on deaf ears".

Khoza started the whole process by bringing in Dutch legend Rudolf Kroll, who has massive knowledge of African soccer.

He also roped in an array of stars like Benson Mhlongo, Moeneeb Josephs, Thulasizwe Mbuyane, Lebogang Mothibantwa and Thembile Kanono.

The Ghost tend to be too impatient for results, thus the changing of coaches over the past seasons without winning trophies.

The season-opening Telkom Charity Cup aside, the drought is over at Parktown this season as Pirates are defi- nitely going to grab at least one title this season, notwithstanding their 1-0 loss to Lamontvile Golden Arrows on Saturday.

Pirates also hope Jerry Adriano Pires from Cape Verde will help end their goal drought up front.

Though Kaizer Chiefs lost their opening game to the unpredictable Thanda Royal Zulu at the weekend, they are definitely one of the dark horses in the Premiership marathon this season.

So far Wafa Wafa is proving a great platform for Chiefs coach Muhsin Ertugral to prove that he has assembled a fine blend of youth and experience to make Saddam Maake and company proud to be associated with the club.

Chiefs have done well so far, especially with the combination of Gert Schalkwyk and Venezuelan international striker Jose Torrealba, who is one of the players to watch this season.

Chiefs have also recruited other players like Valery Nahayo, Thabang Rooi, Gordon Gilbert, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, George Lebese and promoted Tlou Molekwane.

Much as my "the bones" say, watch out for Sundowns, United, Pirates or Chiefs on the winners' podium at the end of the season. And also keep an eye on Ajax Cape Town, Moroka Swallows, Free State Stars and Bidvest Wits.

While it may be true that there are no more weak and strong teams, yet I feel relegation is likely to beckon Bay United, Santos and Maritzburg United.