Soccer in South Africa is becoming an all-year-round game, with little respite for players or coaches alike. But it is good news for us fans, who no longer have to struggle to find something to do on a Saturday afternoon.
I hate the off-season in soccer. There is nothing I look forward to more than upcoming football matches on a Saturday or Sunday, either going to the ground and soaking up the atmosphere or sitting on the coach and catching the action on the TV.
This past Premier Soccer League (PSL) season, for me, was one of the best we have had in many years. The title-race went almost to the wire, with any one of Orlando Pirates, SuperSport United, Moroka Swallows, Wits University or Golden Arrows having the chance to claim top honours at the start of May.
The relegation battle also went down, literally, to the final few kicks of the season, with a titanic battle of wits between Ajax Cape Town and Bush Bucks ending in the latter taking the drop.
Even the battle for the final SAA Super Eight place for next season was decided in the final game of the campaign, Jomo Cosmos pipping Santos for a place in the lucrative start-of-season tournament.
And now with the Bafana Bafana friendlies and African Cup of Nations qualifiers keeping us occupied into July, as well as the Peace Cup in the middle of July when Kaizer Chiefs will rub shoulders with the likes of Roma, Bayer Leverkusen and Sao Paulo of Brazil and the Vodacom Challenge involving Chiefs and Pirates, the off season is well and truly jam-packed for South African football fans.
With the prospect of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool coming to the country in late July for friendlies, as well as the Charity Spectacular and then Super Eight competition, almost every weekend has a game of football.
And the new PSL season should be action-packed as well, with perennial underachievers Chiefs having been active in the transfer market and newly-promoted clubs Zulu Royals (formerly Amazulu) and Dangerous Stars (formerly Silver Stars) adding extra spice to the competition.
The close-season programme:
Bafana Bafana internationals:
June 14 vs Trinidad & Tobago
June 22 vs Ivory Coast
July 6 vs Burundi
June 29 to July 6
July 15 to July 22
By Nick Said