The race is not to the swift
Not many people could have predicted it but the final minutes of the final day of the Barclays Premier League provided us with many memorable moments. It has proven once again that football is not called the beautiful game for nothing. No one could have predicted this kind of finale.
The last few minutes of the games that involved the title chasers were heart-stopping moments, the stuff the movies are made of. Manchester United were champions for about two minutes and then, as they were about to start with celebrations for their 20th title, their bitter rivals and neighbours Manchester City had other ideas. We all know what followed.
This kind of finish reminded me of the words of a great Israel king Solomon, who remarked that “…the swiftest person does not always win the race, nor the strongest man the battle…”
Manchester United went in the last day boasting a reputation of winning titles in dramatic fashion. It was therefore understandable when the Red Devils fans all over the world were feeling more confident that Saturday was one of those moments. What better way of doing so at the expense of their noisy rivals, who have no experience in winning the league. City had not won the league title in 44 years and two days.
It was therefore not suprising when, playing away at Sunderland, United fired the first shot.They scored early and, with the score at the Etihad Stadium still goalless, theirs and their supporters' confidence was growing. It was not to be their season as they were pipped by City in the last two minutes of the game.
City's character was tested to the last second and they prevailed, proving that determination and a never-say-die attitude can take one far.
Most United players have done it before. City, on the other hand, had a few of their own who had not tasted championship victory in their careers.
Many United fans, having won so many trophies, were confident that City could not win it under their noses. How wrong they were.
This scenario is playing itself out in the Absa Premiership. Two teams, Orlando Pirates and Moroka Swallows, are the league honours. Pirates are leading Swallows with two points with the title going to be decided on the last day of the season.
You see Pirates will go into this one confident, having done it last season, winning it on the final day. One cannot fault their supporters for believing history is going to repeat itself this Saturday. Why not? Their team has been doing great, snatching victories from the jaws of defeat. It is something they have done so perfectly. Few will bet against them retaining their title.
They will even feel more confident knowing that they have not lost to Golden Arrows in a very long time. It must be remembered that it was against the very Arrows they clinched their first title in eight years last year.
The Dube Birds, on the other hand, like Manchester City, have not won a league title in donkey's years. This almost put them on the back-foot going into the final 90 minutes of the 2011/12 season, compared to Pirates, who have the experience and motivation to become the first team to win a treble in successive years in the PSL era.
What are the odds of a team that just last year were fighting relegation, of them upsetting the champions? Many will feel it is a big ask for the Dube Birds.
Well the Buccaneers will well be advised that they are competing against a team that has very little to lose. They have done well so far to turn their season around and I believe winning the title will be a bonus.
Swallows dished out performances through-out the season that made one sit up and take notice. They were not snatching late wins but were getting vital points.
Led by four-time title-winning coach (with four different teams), Gordon Igesund, the Birds were soaring higher, eliminating other title contenders, like Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United along the way.
Igesund assembled a squad of what many refer to as rejects, the likes of Siyabonga Nomvethe, David Mathebula and Joseph Makhanya. These players showed hunger not seen in our league in many years. Nomvethe proved that he is a natural born goal scorer when he netted 20 goals, a feat that no one has achieved in the last five seasons.
Swallows' rise deserves some reward and what better way of doing this against the champions? With a coach who never got much recognition, despite his achievements, Swallows are on the cusp of league glory and upsetting the formbook. These players have worked hard. They have been one of the two most consistent teams in the second half of the season.
I am looking forward to a fascinating final day of the Absa Premiership down in Durban. It is going to be tough but, as City have shown, impossible is nothing in football.
May the best team win.
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