Durban Warriors v Gqikazi All Stars, Saturday 17th January 2015, 2pm

1 opening shot

There’s not much football going on in South Africa at the moment. The top two divisions are taking a break in the run up to the African Cup of Nations and so I planned a trip to Durban to coincide with the quarter finals of the reserve league‘s Multi-Choice Diski Challenge. I know, but you have to be somewhere. However, as soon as I’d booked the flights and hotel, the South African FA decided to move the fixtures back a fortnight. Thanks fellas.

Fortunately I’m getting more familiar with the regional third tier games in the ABC Motsephe League and I worked out that we could get along to the Durban Warriors v Gqikazi All Stars clash at the practice pitch next to the Moses Mabhida stadium.

We very nearly didn’t get to Durban at all. Jen had picked up an expired passport instead of her current one and we didn’t discover the mistake until we were about to board. It wasn’t as if it had recently expired either, no, it ran out in 1989. Not only that, but it wasn’t even in the name on her ticket.

We thought that rather than just head for home we might as well try to get on the flight and even though Jen drew their attention to the situation, they surprisingly had little interest and were happy for us to board. Result. We were off to the seaside. Hopefully with equally lax security on the way back.

The view from the hotel balcony.

The view from the hotel balcony.

The game wasn’t until the afternoon and so we took the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in the morning wandering around the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve. They have a few marked hiking trails and we just about got around them all. As a bonus, they had monkeys, which is almost always a good thing.

The zebras were easier to photograph.

The zebras were easier to photograph.

After lunch we set off for the Moses Mabhida stadium. We’d been before, for last year’s Nedbank Cup final, and it’s one of my favourite modern grounds. The arch is a bit of a gimmick but it fits well with the opening at one end and if you approach from that direction it’s an impressive sight.

We struggled to find the practice pitch at first and none of the people around the stadium had any idea of its existence, never mind its whereabouts. Eventually, after plenty of back tracking we spotted it in the distance. It has to be three hundred yards from the main stadium and associating them seems tenuous at best to me.

It's a decent backdrop.

It’s a decent backdrop.

All the wandering around meant that we that we missed the first twenty minutes of the game including an opening goal for the home side. We caught the equaliser as we were arriving though, albeit from about fifty yards down the road.

It would be a push to describe the practice pitch as a ‘stadium’ as three sides had nothing more than a fence. On the fourth was a building that presumably housed the changing rooms and the lawn mower, but had nothing more for spectators other than a single bench seat running along part of its length.

I suppose you could call it the main stand.

I suppose you could call it the main stand.

There were around fifty people watching and the only available seating was next to the three subs for the away team. That was good enough for us and allowed us to observe their manager at close range. He didn’t issue much in the way of advice to his team, perhaps because his movements were restricted by his Stoke City away shirt that was a good few sizes too small.

Durban Warriors were in green with a Spar supermarket logo that I imagine might have scuppered a few shirt sales, whilst Gqikazi wore yellow. There weren’t any further goals in the first half and when the whistle blew for the break we considerately moved away from the subs bench in case any of the players wanted to sit down.

Meanwhile, on the pitch...

Meanwhile, on the pitch…

Nothing of note happened in the second half until a quarter of an hour before the end when the home number ten hit a shot from thirty yards out and close to the right touchline. Or at least I think it was the number ten. It was hard to tell as he was instantly mobbed by his team-mates after a shot that was far too fast and high for the keeper dipped at the last moment to graze both crossbar and upright on its way into the top corner.

Fantastic. It was one of those goals that reminds you of exactly why we bother going to the match. Everyone jumped in the air, including, I suspect, a few who weren’t even supporting Durban. Whatever else was going on in the world was momentarily eclipsed.

View from down the side.

View from down the side.

Durban almost added a third at the death when one of their strikers chested down a cross field pass and stroked it past the keeper from close range. It wasn’t to be though, as the trigger happy lino had his flag up even before it reached the net. I was pleased in a way as that second goal deserved to be the last word.

Just in case any of you were worried, Durban airport was just as relaxed about out of date passports in the wrong name as Johannesburg was and so we made it home without any fuss.

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