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Can Silver Stars Achieve The Impossible? 05/12/03

Kaizer Chiefs against Silver Stars really is a David and Goliath match-up.

But when referee Petrus Mathabela blows his whistle at 3:15pm on Saturday all the talk, hype and speculation of the past week will count for nothing as the countrys most supported club go up against minnows from the Limpopo Province.

In front of an expected full-house at the FNB Stadium, the teams go head-to-head in search of the whopping R2million first prize - the richest prize in local club football.

It would take a brave man to bet against the Amakhosi such has been their form this season. However, it is also worth bearing in mind that Stars have claimed the illustrious scalps of Supersport United, Moroka Swallows and Golden Arrows on their way to the final.

So could an upset be on the cards?

Well, we all know that nothing is definite in soccer or in any sport for that matter.

One man who knows what it takes to cause the mother of all upsets is former AmaZulu and Bafana Bafana striker George Dearnaley.

Dearnaley was part of the Usuthu team that sprang a major surprise when they won the inaugural Coca-Cola Cup back in 1992, defeating an all-conquering Kaizer Chiefs team 3-1 in the final.

We really were the underdogs that day, Dearnaley told SASoccer365.com on Friday.
Nobody gave us any chance of stopping a Chiefs juggernaut that had already won the league, the Bob Save and the BP Top 8 that season.

The 34-year-old Dearnaley, whose career was ended prematurely a few years later by an atrocious tackle from Edward Motale, said matters reached their zenith when longtime Usuthu fan Jospeh Tshabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo fame told the media that he expected Chiefs to win 3-0.

Every newspaper saw only one team winning it but when our own fans started giving up hope it was hard not to get demoralised, he remembered.

Luckly though we had Clive Barker as a coach and as everyone knows he is the best motivator in local soccer.

Clive packed us off to a retreat in the Drakensburg the week before the game where we acclimatised and began our mental preparation for the game.

Looking back it was the ideal way to go about things and I suppose as it turned out it was a masterstroke by the Dog.

Against popular opinion and defying all logic AmaZulu achieved the impossible and walked off with the title.

Strikes by Simon Makhubela for Usuthu and Johannes Phadima for Amakhosi had the teams level at 1-1 after 90 minutes, but extra-time goals by Dearnaley and Zimbabwean Ephraim Mwelase left the nation in shock. ( in a bizarre coincidence, AmaZulu had also beaten Chiefs in the league earlier in the season with goals by Makhubela, Dearnaley and Mwelase.)

I remember the game like it was yesterday because it was one of the highlights of my career, said Dearnaley.

Looking back now I think Chiefs went into the game in a very arrogant and over-confident way and it came back to bite them.

Remember they had the likes of Lucas Radebe, Doctor Khumalo and the free scoring duo of Shane MacGregor and Fani Madida in that side and I think they thought they were invincible.

Dearnaley, however, believes there is little chance of the class of 2003 making the same mistake against Silver Stars on Saturday.

I really believe Ted Dumitru to be one of the best coaches in South Africa and I think he deserves the nickname Professor, said Dearnaley.

He is a very keen student of the game and despite his age is up to date with all the latest global coaching developments.

If anything I think he will have his players better prepared mentally than the guys were back in 92.

At the moment he has got them playing some very good soccer and it is amazing to see how much confidence they are playing with.

And a prediction for the big game?

My heart says Silver Stars but my head says Chiefs by a couple of goals.

I always like to back the underdog and think it will be tremendous for South African soccer if Stars can take the title.

Dearnaley played three times for Bafana Bafana.

He also played for Silver Stars but, sadly, was forced into premature retirement by injury.

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