The rivalry between South Africa's Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando
Pirates might be less than four decades old and born of a rather
unusual set of circumstances, but the passion and intensity
involved nonetheless make it one of the biggest games in world
On Saturday, however, the Soweto derby will be taken from its traditional arena in the outlying areas of Johannesburg to the coastal city of Durban on the eve of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Preliminary Draw. In an historic event, Durban's King's Park stadium will play host to the two arch-rivals in desperate need of a fillip after a languid start to the new South African Premier League season. Both, in fact, go into the game languishing in the bottom half of the 16-club standings, desperate to use a positive result in the derby to revitalise their respective campaigns.
The stakes could hardly be any higher. "It's often that winning the derby makes an entire season for either of the clubs," explains former South African international Marks Maponyane, who has played, and scored, in derbies for both sides.
Saturday's match will be the 133rd time the pair have locked horns in an official game, with fixtures between the two stretching back to 1970, when the Chiefs were founded following a breakaway of disaffected players from the Pirates' ranks.
The traditional animosity between the clubs is not born of any local or ethnic rivalry, but can be characterised as a family in-fight, one that has seen the 'son' dominate the 'father' over the last three-and-a-half decades.
In the dark days of apartheid, Pirates - founded in 1937 - were the biggest and most well-supported club in South Africa, but a lack of facilities and the racial restrictions of the day meant they did not play in any formal league structure.
Instead, the club were somewhat akin to the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, and spent their time touring around, competing in mini-tournaments and exhibition matches. In 1968, this saw them play in neighbouring Swaziland and receive a handsome match fee, of which the players at the time felt strongly that they did not get a fair cut.
This led to the beginning of a campaign of agitation and unrest within the club, with several players - including the star of the day, Kaizer Motaung - forming their own side to play similar invitation matches. Within a year, the rift had been formalised with a breakaway side being named after Motaung and taking the badge and colours of the US club Atlanta Chiefs, for whom Motaung had been playing for half the year in the now-defunct NASL.
Goals galore and drama aplenty
The first-ever meeting between the two took place on 24 January 1970, a year before the first-ever black-only professional league started in South Africa. The two sides met at the Orlando stadium in the third-place play-off of an eight-team tournament sponsored by a local brewery, with total prize money of just over US$100.
The Chiefs-Pirates encounter was, in fact, merely the curtain-raiser to the final later in the day, but how fitting that the two clubs should have produced a thrilling spectacle for the onlooking fans, with Pirates ultimately winning 6-4. It remains the highest-scoring game between the two sides and it set the tone for the rivalry that followed, quickly capturing the public's imagination.
The first league match between the two teams was on April 24 1971 and proved every bit as dramatic, with Chiefs staging a remarkable comeback to come from three goals down and win 4-3, with the winner coming just three minutes from time. Already intrigued, the South African public were now hooked on the spectacle of these two giants slugging out, and so it has continued to this day.
At the same time, the two teams have become the best-supported
sides in southern Africa, and both have claimed countless national
and continental titles. Chiefs have enjoyed the better derby record
over recent years, but they have been struggling to find the back
of the net this season and go into Saturday's match with just
one win in their last eight games, leaving their Turkish coach
Muhsin Ertugral under enormous pressure.
Pirates, meanwhile, who started the season with a series of surprise defeats, have recently appointed a new coach in Owen da Gama, who is preparing to take charge of his first derby. "It is a very exciting prospect," he said. "I am really hoping we can put on a good display."
The world will be watching.