The countdown is on people!
In about 48 hours the 2019/20 league season will be over. And given the results of the games played in the BSE it’s been a strange end to a bizarre season that’s taken over a year to complete.
We’re guaranteed a cracking end on Saturday with the top two separated by three goals and both playing teams that desperately need to win to avoid the drop. For most, we are just happy to be seeing the end of the bubble because this month has felt like three at least.
Naturally there have been huge lessons learned and since I’ve been sharing my experiences with you these last few weeks, this time I’ve asked some friends to share theirs.
Shaun Bartlett, Kaizer Chiefs assistant: “Even though we were stuck in a hotel I felt like I was on a plane because every meal the option was chicken or beef – the options you usually get on flights!” Always the joker Shaun but he’s not wrong. I know we shouldn’t complain about food right now, but I am looking forward to something other than chicken or beef too.
Simo Nalane, VT director SuperSport: “I learned how to cut my hair by myself.”
Big ups to Simo for learning a new skill in the bubble and, while I cannot reveal the complex method which may or may not have included a 360 degree video, I can confirm he did a great job.
Andre Arendse, SuperSport United goalkeeper coach: “The bubble has given me uninterrupted time to do opposition video analysis. Life in the bubble has also given us as the technical team members the opportunity to get to know the players on more of a personal level - their thoughts and understanding of our playing philosophies.” There is no place to hide from your bosses in this bubble - you see them at breakfast, training, lunch, supper, on the bus, in the lifts and in the locker room so, like Andre says, people have had time to get to know each other better.
Hlompo Kekana, Mamelodi Sundowns captain: “I got to learn more about my teammates and how they behave after matches. After winning, drawing or a loss there’s no way you are able to hide those feelings because we are here 24/7. A negative was not being able to refresh our minds. But what an experience to be here!”
Kekana and his teammates have been involved in one of the toughest title battles we have seen, with momentum swinging between the top two almost every matchday. And Sundowns, along with Wits, have had the most hectic schedule in the bubble so I’m sure there have been more ice baths in that hotel than most.
ICYMI: Mamelodi Sundowns 0-1 Baroka Coach Pitso Mosimane post-match on @SuperSportTV Full interview here: https://t.co/0qPyByZjwf pic.twitter.com/U08XjFsezg— Julia Stuart (@JuliaStuart_SA) August 31, 2020
Julian Bailey, Cape Town City media manager: “The best of the bubble has been seeing our team grow in unity. We’ve gotten to know each other in ways we wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to.” And the evidence is out there for all to see. Cape Town City have been the best of the bubble with four wins from six games, and that includes beating Sundowns and Pirates.
Simone Conley, Highlands Park fitness trainer: “There have been so many lessons but I think emotional intelligence in a situation that basically controls you is what I’ve learned. We were not able to make choices or decisions, not even with the food prescribed to our team, so we had to just control our emotions.”
It’s been a bit strange being an adult but not able to make your own decisions. Mealtimes or departure times on matchday for example are all pre-determined and if you aren’t able to go with the flow you would have struggled in this bubble.
Paul Lamb, Maritzburg United performance analyst: “The game of football in South Africa cannot survive without the fans. There’s a huge hole in our game. We need the fans to create that emotion of the game – you can never recreate that.”
And I couldn’t agree more. While I have learned loads in this bubble and at games played behind closed doors, the biggest lesson has been what fans bring to the beautiful game.
It’s one of the big reasons teams like Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns – teams used to having massive support wherever they play in this country – have struggled at times.
In the bubble the motivation for players has had to come from within during tough moments in matches, there has been no relying on the fans for that energy and urgency.
That said, we have done what needed to be done to complete the league season under tough circumstances.
This season will always have its place in history but I, for one, can’t wait to have you all back in the stadiums with us as soon as possible.