Pirates down Chiefs in game of mystery

Willard Katsande of Chiefs and Luvuyo Memela of Pirates tussle during the Carling Black Label Cup match at FNB Stadium yesterday.
Willard Katsande of Chiefs and Luvuyo Memela of Pirates tussle during the Carling Black Label Cup match at FNB Stadium yesterday.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The mystery of the missing George Maluleka overshadowed the pre-season Carling Black Label Cup exhibition match after Kaizer Chiefs lost 2-0 to Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium yesterday.

That, and the presence of Khama Billiat, who is a subject of speculation on whether he is staying put at Chiefs or moving back to his old club Mamelodi Sundowns, provided the intrigue of an Agatha Christie mystery novel.

A third aspect was how, even given the flawed nature of this match, Chiefs looked immensely undercooked in the first half, though did improve in the second.

This corporately-hijacked, or sold, gimmick of a "Soweto Derby" sees fans voting in starting line-ups. It needs innovations each year to appease the sponsors' insatiable appetite for maximum exposure through supporter interaction.

The legions of Amakhosi and Buccaneer faithful, hungry after the starvation of an off-season, annually pack FNB for a game that resembles a 1960s Chinese ping-pong friendship tour exhibition match-up.

Bucs fans in jovial mood during the Soweto derby yesterday. Their favourite side beat Amakhosi 2-0 during the pre-season match yesterday.
Bucs fans in jovial mood during the Soweto derby yesterday. Their favourite side beat Amakhosi 2-0 during the pre-season match yesterday.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

But each year the innovations - this edition added a 55th-minute substitution voted by the fans, or something like that - take this further from being a real football game.

Still, though, the masses lap it up, so who are we to be beer grinches?

On Saturday, Maluleka, voted into the starting XI, and who had given media interviews in perfectly good health on Wednesday, was no longer on the team sheet having apparently contracted a mystery ailment.

Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp, who had complained about not having had a defensive midfielder put in his starting line-up by the supporter-coach, now had Willard Katsande to battle in the central midfield.

Billiat started. How much can be read into that? The fans had spoken. It remains to be seen if he will remain in that frontline still dressed in gold, or continue seeking a visa to the Yellow Nation.

Oh, ja, and the score was 2-0 to Pirates. Bucs looked scary. Chiefs looked scarily underwhelming.

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