Maritzburg City v Amajuba United, Saturday 21st February 2015, 3pm

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A couple of months before Christmas Jen started running. Not in a Forrest Gump way that would have resulted in her being a few hundred miles away by now, but laps around the block. She’s stuck at it and as she can now run for ages without stopping, the next stage was try it out in an actual 10k race.

She picked one in Pietermaritzburg and so that’s where we went at the weekend. It was a big success. I watched the race from MacDonalds and in the time it took me to eat two breakfasts, Jen was finishing her run just outside of the prize money.

Pietermaritzburg 10k

Pietermaritzburg 10k

After the race we went for a hike at Albert Falls Dam. It was a choice made primarily because they have a camping ground where we were able to sneak into the showers, but it turned out to be a decent walk too. The animals were a bit more wary than they are at some places and we didn’t get too close to the wildebeest or zebra, but we got good views of a couple of fish eagles.

The smaller stuff was easier to look at. There were a few giant snails and plenty of grasshoppers. I’ve included a photo of a pair of grasshoppers mating, mainly so that I can tag it with ‘grasshopper porn’ and see what traffic it drives to the blog.

Grasshopper porn

Grasshopper porn

We saw some frogs too and one of them very kindly sat still whilst I stuck the camera about two inches from its face. I’m sure there’s some special macro setting or something for that sort of shot but, as with most things in life, I tend not to bother learning how do something properly and rely instead on just hoping for the best. I’ve found over the years that it’s a lot less effort and there’s usually minimal difference in the outcome.

A frog.

A frog.

Of course, as soon as I knew we were going to Pietermaritzburg for the weekend I put the effort in to look at the sporting options. They have a Premier League team, Maritzburg United, but they were playing away. There’s a team that plays in the third tier ABC Motsephe League though, Maritzburg City, and conveniently they were at home on the Saturday.

City play just outside of Pietermaritzburg at the Wadley Stadium in the Georgetown township. I wonder when the term ‘township‘ will be replaced by just ‘town‘? It sounds so much better, a bit like the way that streets in every new housing development in England are called things like Badger Glade or Honeysuckle Meadow even if they are sandwiched between the sewage works and an industrial estate.

Unusually for a lower league ground, Wadley Stadium appeared on the satnav and benefited from decent signposting. The twenty minute drive from the city centre took us through some fairly poor areas, although people seemed quite happy to let their goats and cows graze unattended by the side of the road or in the central reservation.

I presume that the fear of retribution from the local Mr Big was sufficient to deter people from flinging the odd ruminant into the back of their pick-up and speeding off.

View from the main stand.

View from the main stand.

Wadley Stadium was just what I look for in a ground. For a start, it was where it was supposed to be. It also had brick terracing to a couple of sides and a decent backdrop, this time houses up in the hills.

The game had just kicked off when we got there and there were already three or four hundred people watching, mainly from the top couple of terracing steps down the side of the pitch and with some smaller groups behind the goal to our left. There was also some tiered seating opposite for those people who didn’t want the background of the hills.

Fans behind the goal.

Fans behind the goal.

Maritzburg City were in blue, with their opponents in yellow and it was Amajuba who applied the early pressure. It didn’t count for much though as ten minutes in a ball over the top was stroked home by a City striker to put the home side a goal up.

The Amajuba keeper didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. It wasn’t so much his shot stopping, as he didn’t have too many shots to stop, it was more his general unorthodoxy. For example, when receiving backpasses he would flick the ball up into the air and then welly it downfield on the volley.

He might be ahead of his time but I tend to think that if his favoured method of distribution was any good then we’d see the professional keepers doing it on the telly every week.

View to the right.

View to the right.

Half an hour in it started to rain and so we got back in the car and took advantage of the parking area behind one of the goals. It reminded me of the days when those disability cars would park pitchside. In particular, I thought back to the play-off second leg at Stamford Bridge in ’88. I’m sure there were cars on the semi-circle of grass behind the goal at the Shed end. Can you imagine that these days? Although it would be a handy place for Jose to park the bus when he didn’t need it on the pitch.

We got to half-time without any further goals and in torrential rain Maritzburg ran for the dressing room whilst Amajuba had to make do with a minibus to our right.

The main stand.

The main stand.

When the second half resumed the subs for both sides remained exactly where they were, leaving a couple of lines of empty chairs at the side of the pitch. The ball boys had no desire to be outside in that weather either and so the fourth official was forced to do a lap of the pitch every now and again to do their jobs for them.

With a quarter of an hour to go Amajuba managed to squeeze the ball in at the City keeper’s near post prompting a mass celebration of Klinsmann dives. It was certainly appropriate in the conditions but it’s not something you’d expect to see too often on an artificial pitch.

As the game drew to a close the puddles on the pitch grew larger. There’s no way that the match would have started with the surface in that state but if the ref had called it off at that stage he probably have been strung up by the players.

After an hour of rain.

After an hour of rain.

Bang on ninety minutes Maritzburg got the winner, prompting an even bigger celebration than we’d seen earlier. This one involved fellas with umbrellas charging onto the pitch and a blast of car horns from what was now a full car park behind the goal.

At that point the rain eased up, allowing the ref to add a few minutes of injury time that would have been unthinkable in the earlier conditions. We even got the subs and ball-boys making a sheepish re-appearance.

 

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