Mon 15 Apr by Mark Gleeson
Chippa United coach Clinton Larsen had a knowingly sly smile on his face last weekend even after his side had been beaten by Bidvest Wits to remain a prime candidate for relegation to the second tier of the Premier Soccer League.They have a distraction this Saturday when they host Kaizer Chiefs at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the semi-final of the Nedbank Cup and as Larsen looks to secure a first-ever cup final appearance for the Port Elizabeth-based club.
He stands a very good chance of doing so, for as Larsen, and the rest of the country, knows this is the game of the season for Chiefs and they are not a side who have provided much conviction over their ability to rise above the pressure.Larsen beamed when he talked about the burden of expectation that will be weighing down on Chiefs, handing Chippa the possibility of a frozen opponent and a strong chance to advance to the cup final.It is the last chance for Chiefs to deliver a much sought-after trophy and avoid the ignominy of a fourth season without any silverware.But there is also so much more at the stake for the club, who have been losing popularity and prestige as fickle fans desert them in the wake of their trophy drought.To keep their lucrative brand, selling expensive uniforms and to win over a younger generation of fans, they need to return to winning ways after years of poor purchases, hiring the wrong coaches and made mediocrity the norm.All the talk in the build-up to the semi-final this weekend will be about whether Chiefs can deliver a trophy. It is potentially unbearable pressure that an inexperienced squad are going to find difficult to deal with.Hence Larsen’s genuine belief his side can win … as do many others.
It should set up a final between Chippa and Lamontville Golden Arrows on 18 May in Durban. Hardly the most glamourous of fixtures to see off the season but further confirmation that the days of Chefs’ hegemony are long gone.
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