Orlando Pirates v Kaizer Chiefs, Saturday 6th December 2014, 3,30pm

1 - pirates flag

The biggest game in South African football is the Soweto derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. It’s so big that the Pirates routinely forfeit home advantage to enable the fixture to be played at the 94,000 capacity ground of their rivals rather than their own 40,000 seater Orlando Stadium.

The build up to this game had been a little more manic than most. Firstly it had been rescheduled due to the murder of the Pirates keeper, then the Pirates bowed to popular opinion and fired their manager three days before the game.

Jen and I had been to this fixture last season and knew that we needed to set off early. I’d allowed an extra hour but it wasn’t enough. The heavy traffic was made worse by the power cuts rationing electricity knocking out the majority of traffic lights. We tried any number of short cuts but the congestion meant that we didn’t arrive at the FNB stadium until around twenty minutes to kick-off.

Even then we had an arse on getting parked. Our pre-booked tickets were for the Expo centre, but we weren’t allowed along the access road to it and so had to dump the car in a different car park by the side of the road.

On the way in.

On the way in.

We had an easier time getting into the stadium, with no bag search and no queues at the electronic turnstiles. I’d forgotten that there were three tiers to the stadium though and we went right up to the top level when in reality our tier 2 tickets require ground level entrance. Even so, and despite having to do half a lap of the stadium before we found the correct block, we missed no more than the first few seconds of the game.

The view from the second tier.

The view from the second tier.

The fixture had been reported as a sell-out a few weeks earlier, but there were still tickets on sale in the days leading up to the game. An interesting innovation was the announcing of the current crowd a few minutes after kick-off. The claim of 51,000 in a 94,000 capacity ground seemed about right and I was curious as to how much that would increase by the finish.

The first half play was quite tight, but the Chiefs looked the better team. They seemed much more mobile than the Pirates, with quick support from the midfield for any attacking move and a similar effort when they were called upon to defend.

Pirate attack.

Pirate attack.

Reneilwe Letsholonyane controlled the game in the middle of the park for the Chiefs with a George Boateng style performance, whilst on the right Siphiwe Tshabalala always looked dangerous.

At half-time we decided to find some shade and moved to a top tier corner area on the other side of the ground. There were still people coming in through the turnstiles as we made our way around the ground, although that’s not surprising with the extent of the traffic chaos.

Probably a Pirates fan.

Probably a Pirates fan.

Chiefs made their pressure pay soon after the break when Tshabalala put them a goal up and they should really have added a second soon after when someone hit a post with the Pirates keeper already beaten on the ground.

A few minutes from time the ‘final’ crowd was announced as 71,000. That was probably about right.  It’s a excellent attendance, but in a 94,000 capacity stadium any areas of empty seating were always going to stand out.

View from the far corner.

View from the far corner.

We cleared off a few minutes before the end to try to avoid the gridlock outside and as we left the ground we heard a cheer that I’d assumed was the final whistle. It turned out to be an injury time goal from the Chiefs, calming a few nerves and clinching victory.

The win consolidated the Chiefs position at the top of the league and effectively left manager-less Pirates out of contention even before we’ve reached the mid-point of the season.


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