With the Absa Premiership kicking off on Friday, S’busiso Mseleku picks some of the matches to look forward to.
Whether it’s a computer or a human hand, the soccer gods have once more ensured that the Absa Premiership kicks off with an encounter between the defending champions and a promoted side.
As fate would have it, promoted Mpumalanga Black Aces will kick off the 2013/14 season against titleholders Kaizer Chiefs on Friday.
The Friday evening game at Mbombela Stadium will usher in a weekend of seven matches.
Missing in action to complete the fixture list will be Orlando Pirates, who engage Egyptian giants Al Ahly in a CAF Champions League battle.
They will only play their first league match on August 7 when they host AmaZulu at Orlando Stadium.
The upcoming season is particularly intriguing as many questions from last season may still be lurking in the minds of local soccer aficionados.
Will Amakhosi have what it takes to successfully defend the title?
Can Pirates sustain a credible league challenge while playing in a continental tournament?
Will Mamelodi Sundowns be able to turn their fortunes around and win the league title to justify club president Patrice Motsepe’s splashing out millions?
Will there be a dark horse à la Platinum Stars last season? Which player will outshine the rest and sweep all the awards as Itumeleng Khune did last season?
Rest assured that all these questions will be answered come the end of May next year, when the league will no doubt come to another dramatic end.
But in the near future, the Mpumalanga encounter gets the ball rolling on Friday, while Durban will have its taste of top-flight soccer in the form of the Golden Arrows vs Ajax Cape Town clash on Saturday.
Other matches on Saturday will see Free State Stars visit SuperSport United at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Tshwane.
Maritzburg United will host the other rookies, Polokwane City, at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg.
And then on Sunday, the focus will be on the Free State Stadium, when Bloemfontein Celtic host Sundowns.
The other Sunday encounter will involve Platinum Stars and Bidvest Wits at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.
Most local soccer fans always look out for the Soweto derby as soon as the fixtures are released.
The first will be on October 26, when Chiefs host Pirates at the FNB Stadium.
Before that, another Soweto thriller will go down between Moroka Swallows and Chiefs on August 27.
The return between Pirates and Chiefs will be on March 15.
Pretoria and Joburg (Soweto in particular) will also be divided when either Chiefs or Pirates engage Sundowns.
Pirates visit Downs at Loftus on September 18 and Chiefs follow on November 23. Sundowns will tackle Pirates at Orlando Stadium on February 8 and Chiefs at FNB Stadium on April 5 on the reverse fixtures.
This will be spiced up by Cup, continental and international action interspersed in between (see sidebar).
The players have been signed up and some coaches have changed allegiances, like Cavin Johnson who is leaving Platinum Stars for SuperSport.
All that is left now is for the talking to be done on the pitch, with a R10 million pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
PSL Cup, CAF and Fifa dates
August 10: MTN8 QF weekend
August 14: Fifa date
August 17: CAF weekend
August 21: MTN8 SF 1st leg midweek
August 24: MTN8 SF 2nd leg weekend
September 7: Fifa weekend
September 21: CAF weekend and MTN8 Final
October 2: Telkom Cup last 16 midweek
October 5: Telkom Cup last 16 weekend
October 12: Fifa weekend
October 19: CAF weekend and Telkom Cup QF weekend
November 2: Telkom Cup SF weekend and CAF Champions League Final 1st leg
November 9: CAF Champions League Final
November 16: Fifa Weekend
November 29-December 1
November 30: Telkom Cup Final
January 11-22: Chan groupmatches
January 24-26:Chan QF
January 29-February 1:Chan SF, 3rd place play-off and final
February 19:Nedbank Cup 1st round midweek
February 22: Nedbank Cup 1st round weekend
February 26: Nedbank Cup 1st round midweek
March 4: Fifa date
March 22: Nedbank Cup last 16 weekend
March 26: Nedbank Cup last 16 midweek
April 12:Nedbank Cup QF weekend
May 3: Nedbank Cup SF weekend
May 17: Nedbank Cup final weekend
* QF – quarterfinal; SF – semifinal
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