Ndlanya: Soweto derby memories will stay with me forever

Pollen Ndlanya is one of a few players to have excelled at both Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, and he talked to Vodacom Soccer about his experiences of playing in the Soweto derby.

At Chiefs, Ndlanya won the Premiership title in 1990 and the Rothmans Cup (now called the Telkom Knockout) in 1998, while at Pirates he lifted the league title and the BP Top 8 during the 2000/01 season.

The two giants of South African soccer will renew their rivalry in a sold-out affair at FNB Stadium on Saturday.

"I always tell people that the Soweto derby remains the biggest match in the country. It's a big event and it doesn't matter whether it's a league or cup game," Ndlanya said.

"There is a lot of stake. It's about pride, the supporters. But as a player, when you perform well in a derby, you stand a chance of being a superstar. At the same time, if you fail to perform, it destroys you.

"Playing in the Soweto derby is an honour for any player and it is always exciting, but also comes with the nerves. It's a game that can make or break you."

Ndlanya mentioned scoring a brace for Chiefs during the two legged semi-final of the Rothmans Cup against the Buccaneers as one of his biggest performances in the derby.

"Look, as a striker scoring in the derby makes you a hero to the supporters. even if you don't perform well in the next match they will still love and support you," he declared.

"It was a huge thing for me to score a brace in front of so many supporters. It was exciting. It gives you confidence as a striker and I think it was the highlight of my career."

However, Ndlanya never got the chance to score against Amakhosi during his time with the Sea Robbers and doesn't regret it because he always had a soft spot for their arch-rivals.

"I didn't score. But what I will cherish is that I played for both teams in the Soweto derby. Not a lot of people get a chance to do that," he admitted.

"But it would have been a bit of history to have scored for both teams in the match. Unfortunately it never happened at Pirates, but I always had a soft spot for Chiefs because that's where I started my career.

"But I don't have regrets. What matters is that I made a mark for both teams because I won a lot of trophies at Chiefs and also won the league with Pirates in the 2000/01 season."

'Trompies', as the former striker was popularly known in his playing days, stated that it's difficult to give a prediction of the match, but feels Pirates will have the edge on Saturday.

"Look, it's not easy to predict the score in the derby because, I will tell you now, there are a lot of things at stake," he said. "Surely players from both camps have been promised bonuses to win the match and also there pressure from the supporters.

"Looking at the two teams' last match, Chiefs didn't play well against Black Leopards. I must say, they were not convincing. Pirates on the other hand played very well, they played as a team and created a lot of chances.

"The coaches are spoilt for choice and have a lot of quality players. I give Pirates the upper hand, but you can never underestimate Chiefs. They are for me still work in progress, and also have quality players like Khama Billiat and Siphelele Ntshangase."

By Mikia Kalati