90 mins when Mzansi comes to a complete stand still

JOHANNESBURG - Next Saturday, December 8, 2012 Mzansi’s sporting world comes to a standstill when the first instalment of Africa’s biggest derby takes place at the country’s Soccer City precinct just outside Soweto.

The Orlando Pirates/Kaizer Chiefs derby is considered one of the fiercest derbies around the world and on the African continent, probably has no equal.

Some people who have not witnessed this duel might start accusing me of having smoked something, but facts and numbers do not lie.

Research done by internationally acclaimed study groups show that the contest between Amabhakabhaka (Pirates) and Amakhosi (Chiefs) rank among the biggest cross-town rivalry the soccer fraternity has ever seen the world over.

Yes, Egypt had, until recently, the Al Ahli versus Zamalek challenge but ladies and gentlemen, nothing on the African continent will beat this Soweto contest.

In Zimbabwe, soccer fans might talk of the Dynamos/CAPS United old duels but compared to the Bucs/Khosi rivalry that, sorry for evoking patriotic emotions, remains a child’s play.

Back to the study, the Soweto rivalry between the two giants was put up as among the top five soccer encounters in the world together with the Barcelona/Real Madrid, Manchester United/Liverpool and AC Milan/Inter Milan matches.

The two Soweto giants are hardly a kilometre apart. For those that have never been to sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest township; Pirates hail from Orlando East while Chiefs come from Orlando West.

Only a winding highway and railway line separate the two clubs.

If by any misfortune you do not attend the derby and you are passing through the vast Orlando Township using the aforementioned freeway or the train, just listen to which part of Orlando the loudest noise is coming from and you will know which team has won on the day. That is how big this derby is.

To say this is the derby of all derbies in Africa is an understatement because life literally comes to a standstill when these two giants do battle.

For this coming Saturday’s derby all tickets were snapped up as soon as they went up on sale. In fact in the first three days 80 000 tickets were sold and as we speak, it is a total sell out as punters and informal traders also wait for their payday.

It is a day when shebeens around the vast Mzansi Township stockpile loads and loads of beer crates in anticipation of roaring business.

Unfortunately, it is not fun throughout as, at times, in the aftermaths of the each encounter, people lose lives although such incidents have become rare as supporters become more sober and learn that soccer is not necessarily a matter of life and death.

What makes this particular derby juicier is the fact that Chiefs are currently one point ahead of the Ghosts in the Absa Premiership table and any slip up will see the defending champions assume top position.

There is too much at stake for both coaches Roger de Sa (Pirates) and Stuart Baxter (Chiefs).

This is the two mentors’ first taste of the derby. Supporters will come dressed to the nines in their traditional makarapas (long traditional metal-made hats and goggles) and will blow vuvuzelas around the 94 000-seater stadium until the very last minute of this encounter.

Conducting an audible conversation inside the stadium on the day is not possible because it is the day vuvuzelas rule the roast. If you think you heard enough noise of this plastic pipe during the 2010 World Cup, then hang around the Soccer City this coming Saturday to hear the real deal and sweet sounds from this township invented horn.

On the field of play, players from opposite teams look at each other in the eye as they believe he who blinks first will literally bite the dust.

My first personal experience of the derby was sometime in 1994 when after losing, the Sea Robbers burnt a section of FNB Stadium attracting a hefty fine from the PSL disciplinary committee.

For the uninitiated, Kaizer Chiefs was formed in 1970 after some Pirates disgruntled players led by Kaizer Motaung left the club to start their own team.

Ravaged by in-fighting, Pirates for years lost ground on Chiefs who through their continued success garnered more and more supporters leading to increased hostility between the two sides.

Currently, there is very little to separate the two teams and only he who loves it most will win, come Saturday. - Tinotenda Panashe

*Panashe is our South Africa-based columnist. He can be contacted by e-mail at Tinotenda.Panashe@gmail.com

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