What to watch out for when South African football returns

The buzz is real, football continues to return across the world, not as the game we know it, but as one we love regardless of circumstance. Germany’s brave steps have seen leagues concluded across Europe, while The Americas and Asia have also swiftly seen the round leather game return. It shifts the focus to Africa, where due to exacerbating costs, leagues are cancelled like an online order. Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco took the dive, and have seen their leagues return. The common theme amongst the nations is a well-structured league that generates just enough revenue. In Africa, it’s the exception rather than the norm, hence, why South Africa’s Premier Soccer League, remains the golden tulip for fans and enthusiasts of African football. Its restart has been the most publicized and despite fears the league would be cancelled, Dr Irvin Khoza, the CEO of the PSL, has assured the league would be finished. “It is our primary goal.”, he says. Even when the Sports Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, says otherwise.

The PSL and its lower division, The GladAfrica Championship, like the MLS and CSL will be finished in a BioBubble in Gauteng. Mthethwa says, “Teams must comply with health protocols strictly, else, the season would be terminated”.  All 32 teams have run several tests over the period, with each club assigned a compliance officer to keep them in check. The teams arrive a day before recommencement on August 8, all for safety purposes. The league will run from August 11-September 5, with the Nedbank Cup holding either side of the league schedule, also in the bubble. With the return of Diski, what are the things that have changed since we last saw the beautiful game on the sands of Msanzi?   

  1. NO FANS: there will be no vuvuzelas, no fans and no chants. DIski will be enjoyed from the comfort of our seats at home. DIski is not the same without the fans and it would be an extremely strange sight, but players who featured in the MDC will relate. The catch here? We all get to see our favorite journalist Phumlani Msibi say “Coach, Thoughts Please” in real time at post-match interviews.
  2. RUSTY PLAYERS: Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper, Itumeleng Khune has sought understanding from the fans already, citing that whichever team that gets in the groove fastest has the advantage because everyone will be rusty. “I see with Kasper Schmeichel and David de Gea, they weren’t the same when football returned. Its more difficult for goalies, but we will see to it”, he said. Trust Itu, he will be at his best to aid Chiefs’ title push.
  3. NEW SHERRIFF IN TOWN FOR CHIPPA UNITED: Norman Mapenza’s exit had led to Chippa securing Rhulani Mokwena on loan till the end of the PSL season. Mokwena took charge of one game before lockdown, a 0-0 draw with Bidvest Wits. It was to be the only game in his tenure as his loan ended on June 30, with Coach Rhulani the first Chippa coach to see out his contract. Lehlohonolo Seema, his successor would hope not to get fired before his three-year contract is up, but first, he must see off Cape Town City.
  4. KAIZER CHIEFS COULD WIN THE TITLE IN ORLANDO: With teams assigned home venues for fairness in the Bubble, title chasing Amakhosi could end their trophy drought on Sea Robbers ground. The Orlando Stadium is their new home, and Ernst Middendorp and his charges would be more than motivated to rub it in Bucaneers faces. It would be a gamechanger that sets the tone for next season’s Carling Black Label Cup. Masandawana may need to rescue the Pirates.
  5. MONEY, MONEY AND MORE MONEY: There could be groans from club owners soon, with each club to spend between an estimated R800k- R1.2m in the six weeks to be spent in the Bubble varying by club stature.
  6. SUBSTITUTIONS: Just as across the world, the five-substitution rule will be used. Hence, nine subs must be named rather than seven. Clubs get three substitution opportunities apart from half time breaks. Should both teams make subs at the same time, it counts as a used opportunity for both teams. Clever Boys, Masandawana get in here, Unused substitutes can be carried into extra time in Cup games. Teams get an additional substitution opportunity in extra time taking subs to 6 and windows to 4.

With eight games left, seven for some, there is the title race, the battle for survival, a place in the top 8 and promotion from the GladAfrica Championship. Gabadinho Mhango, Peter Shalulile, Bradley Grobler, Bongi Ntuli and Samir Nurkovic will hope to add to their tallies in the Golden Boot Race. Ronwen Williams and Daniel Akpeyi will also renew rivalries for the golden gloves with the latter having a huge chance as he has more games to play. Whatever your team is battling for whichever team you support, The great thing is, Diski is back.