Orlando Pirates v Wits University, Saturday 17th May 2014, 3pm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Saturday was Cup Final day, not just in England, but in South Africa too. Or rather it was Nedbank Cup Final day. I’ve no idea if Nedbank are an international bank, but if they are then they should open some branches in Scotland. I’m sure that they’d be very popular.

It’s a few weeks since I’ve seen a football game over here, what with the trip to the UK and then my kids coming over here for a visit. They’d have been happy to go to a match or two, but unfortunately none of the fixtures fell right. They did ok for wildlife stuff though.

I'm sure those sticks will be adequate.

I’m sure those sticks will be adequate.

There isn‘t a permanent venue for the Nedbank Cup Final and the South African FA wait until the finalists are known before announcing which ground will host the game. This year it was the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban that got the nod. That worked out pretty well for Jen and I as we’d yet to get to that part of the country.

The Moses Mabhida Stadium.

The Moses Mabhida Stadium.

I’d seen plenty of notices in the football paper giving details of overnight coach trips from Johannesburg for Pirates fans. I’m getting a bit old for that sort of thing though, maybe I’ve always been too old for it, and so we took a one hour flight to Durban instead.

Arriving by air allowed us to notice just how green the land around Durban is. It’s a bit of a contrast from the clay and rocks of the Gauteng area. It was a lot warmer than Gauteng too, or at least it seemed like it as we sat out in the hotel garden for lunch.

Our hotel was one of those near the stadium.

Our hotel was one of those near the stadium.

It promised to be an interesting final, with Wits University, or the Clever Boys as they are nicknamed, being good enough to have finished third in the Premier league, whilst ‘bigger club’ Orlando Pirates had already lost in three cup finals over the season, including the African Champions League.

I initially wasn’t really sure which team I favoured, either with heart or head. They appeared to be quite evenly matched on the field and my usual preference for the bigger club to come unstuck was balanced against the thought that no team should lose four finals in a season.

It remember how sickening it was when the Boro lost two finals in 1997 and then another the following March, but four in a season? No, you can’t have that.

It was probably the Pirates fans that clinched my temporary allegiance. I reckon that they would rival the Kaizer Chiefs nationally in terms of numbers, but they are streets ahead in the characters that they have turning up at the games. They’ve got that crossed-arm salute too, that even the players did before the game acknowledging their supporters.

A couple of Pirates fans.

A couple of Pirates fans.

I’d read that the 54,000 seater stadium had sold out, but fortunately we’d bought our sixty rand tickets a few days earlier. That’s around three and a half quid. Not bad for a cup final. I put more than that in the donations bucket at the recent Alan Hood Memorial Trophy final and that‘s for teams competing in the thirteenth tier of English football. I suspect that the tickets for the Arsenal v Hull game at Wembley will have been a little more expensive too.

There were plenty of empty seats as we went through the turnstiles with around half an hour to go to kick-off, but the stadium continued to fill up throughout the whole of the first half and beyond. By the end, there were only really the seats in front of the executive boxes that were empty, whilst in places people were sat in the aisles or stood blocking the exits.

The Moses Mabhida stadium is a newish ground, built for the World Cup and whilst it has a fancy arch that you can zipline from when there isn’t a game on, I wasn’t impressed with the distance between the pitch and the stands. It’s as if they planned for a running track, but then just didn’t bother. If you are going to build a football stadium, particularly for a World Cup, then just build a football stadium with the stands close to the pitch.

It's an arch.

It’s an arch.

There weren’t many chances early on, with Wits taking the lead half an hour in. At that point the Pirates fans around us seemed to be expecting the worst. It wasn’t surprising really after the season that they’ve had.

I should have taken the camera with the zoom lens.

I should have taken the camera with the zoom lens.

The Pirates coach is renounced for bollocking his players and on this occasion the half-time hairdryer treatment did the trick. Within eight minutes of the re-start Orlando were level and they quickly went on to add another couple of goals.

There was a collective sense of relief from the Pirates fans as their team ran out the clock whilst the Wits players took out their frustration in a series of scuffles.

Fourth time lucky.

Fourth time lucky.

The full time whistle sparked an entertaining pitch invasion as a couple of hundred fans celebrated victory by dodging the stewards and vaulting over the electronic advertising boards. As it is the world over, most of them couldn’t resist holding their arms out ‘airplane style’ as they weaved their way across the turf.

I think that probably brings the South African football season to a close for me. There are a few lower division play-off games still to take place but I don’t think that we will get to any of them. Still, it’s not long to the World Cup.

 

 

One Response to “Orlando Pirates v Wits University, Saturday 17th May 2014, 3pm.”

  1. Eric Says:

    You know, just last week, if I’d read this post, I wouldn’t have got the Nedbank joke. I feel like a more well-rounded person now.

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