Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter and his Orlando Pirates counterpart Mandla Ncikazi admit that the derby will not be the same without the fans on the stands.
The two teams will clash in their first Soweto derby of the season at the FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon. This will be the fifth derby between the two Soweto giants without the fans since the outbreak of the coronavirus in South Africa early last year.
Very little separates the two Soweto giants on the log table coming into this match. Orlando Pirates are sixth on the log after nine matches after their narrow 2-1 win at home to Sekhukhune United on Tuesday.
Chiefs are lying seventh from the same number of games after losing to the high-flying Stellenbosch FC at the FNB Stadium also on Tuesday. But the form book goes out of the window when the two giants clash.
The two technical benches agree that the only missing ingredient on Saturday will be the fans on the stands.
“I miss the fans massively, I miss the fans massively and I think even though I look at some of the foreign games even though friends of mine, colleagues of mine are getting abuse from their supporters would still prefer to have that abuse than not to have fans in the stadium,” says Kaizer Chiefs coach, Stuart Baxter.
The 52-year old Mandla Ncikazi who will be coaching in his first-ever Soweto derby says the fans always add the much-needed flavour in any football match, especially in the much anticipated Soweto derby.
“Football is an entertainment business, footballers are entertainers and I can imagine when you do whatever you do but nobody appreciates and especially for teams like ours they always have that number twelve player in the field of play. In the absence of that, it always affects them, maybe it explains why the so-called small teams are doing better after the Covid because now they enjoy playing in an empty stadium,” says Orlando Pirates caretaker coach, Mandla Ncikazi.
Several key players from both teams will be playing in their first-ever Soweto derby and would have loved to play in front of a packed stadium.
“Growing up I think since the age of five, six I started supporting Kaizer Chiefs, I was a big fan of Jabu Pule, Stanton Fredericks, you know my dad introduced me to the team, he’s a huge Kaizer Chiefs fan you know and I think in the past I used to go to the stadium to watch the derby you know just being there, witnessing the atmosphere and seeing the players perform knowing that the supporters are behind them,” Kaizer Chiefs forward Keegan Dolly.
“For me, I’ve never experienced it with supporters, it’s going to be the first time experiencing it without supporters for me it’s a dream to have supporters there, just to see the stadium full and Orlando Pirates supporters cheering on but would have liked to have supporters there but we can’t but we just have to focus on the game and make sure that we give 100%,” says Orlando Pirates midfielder, Bandile Shandu.
Both teams are having an injury crisis with Pirates captain Happy Jele amongst Bucs players out with long-term injuries. Chiefs will also miss the experience of left-back Sfiso Hlanti who got injured at training on Thursday.