15 May Pre-Season Tourney Back To Remind Us Whose League It Is, Anyway
The Carling Black Label Cup is back! Well, that’s if you give a damn. I certainly don’t; and not only because I don’t support either of the teams that participate in the pre-season competition, but also because it serves as a constant reminder to me that the powers that exist in local football have a touch of dictatorship about them – if the manner in which the competition was introduced is anything to go by.
For those who might not know, the competition in question is played between Soweto arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, a few weeks before the beginning of a new Premier Soccer League (PSL) season, every year. It comes as a replacement for a more inclusive Telkom Charity Cup, that used to comprise four top-tier clubs that competed for the famous small trophy and the prize money that was to be donated to a charity of choice.
This is how that replacement happened: in 2011, the PSL chairman, Dr Irvin Khoza, announced the untimely disbanding of the well-organised pre-season tourney, attributing the decision to, among other things, “fixture congestion.” That announcement was a seriously bitter pill to swallow, given the excitement the famous Charity Cup provided, after a lengthy off-season break, every year. What made the tournament even more special was the unique structure it had: four teams fighting it out for the ultimate prize over three matches in one day!
Mind you, the action used to start as early as 10am on the chosen day, with the second semi-final following right after the first one at around midday, before the 4pm final concluded the day’s proceedings. And that’s not all that made it so great, but also the fact that South African football lovers were the ones who actually decided who would compete each year. This was through the telephone voting system, where clubs were voted for by the dialling of a Telkom number, or simply sending an SMS. The top four clubs with the most votes by the voting closing date would be the ones to participate.
Back to the chairman’s announcement. So, it came as a surprise that Dr Khoza could talk about “fixture congestion”, and blame it on a one-day event that took place right at the beginning of a brand new season, after the winter break. And to make things worse, a few months after that, we were introduced to a new pre-season competition in the form of the Carling Black Label Cup!
The main difference with this new one is that it isn’t open to just anyone, as was the case with the now defunct Charity Cup; but this one was strictly launched for the enjoyment of the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates fans. And all of a sudden, the above-mentioned reasoning that was offered by the chairman, who also happens to be the chairman of the Buccaneers, was thrown out the window.
It is this sad memory that came rushing back to my mind when I heard of the recent launch of the 2016 edition of the Black Label Cup.
It served as a sharp reminder about whose league it is, anyway