The whole of KwaZulu-Natal backed Maritzburg United to ensure that the Telkom Knockout trophy stayed in the province, but it was not to be as Mamelodi Sundowns came from behind to prevail 2-1.
A day before Saturday’s final, a replica of the trophy and some tickets for the final were in a vehicle that was hijacked. The trophy and the tickets were later found in Lindelani, a township in Durban.
The Premier Soccer League were quick to announce that the trophy that was stolen and recovered was a replica, and not the original which allegedly landed in Durban on the day of the final and was handed over by Orlando Pirates’ stalwart Lucky Lekgwathi before kick off.
The Team of Choice had the mammoth task of ensuring that the real trophy stayed in the province, through the right means, against a Sundowns outfit that’s led by a technical team that has won every trophy on offer in the continent.
Maritzburg were confident, casually playing the ball even in the face of danger against their more illustrious opponents who came into this match as favourites. The Brazilians reached the final after eliminating two teams from the province; they humiliated AmaZulu 5-0 in the last 16 and gave Golden Arrows their first defeat at home in the semifinals.
Maritzburg not only had to win this to get their first trophy in the club’s history, they also had to avenge their KZN brothers who were steamrolled by the Sundowns’ juggernaut.
But it wasn’t going to be easy. Such was Sundowns’ desperation to win a domestic knockout competition, they were prepared to also “steal” the trophy if needed.
“If we benefited why not‚ it’s about time,” Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane said after his team got a non-existent penalty to beat Stellenbosch on Wednesday in the league. “I even want an off-side or penalty on Saturday (in the final against Maritzburg). I will lift the trophy gladly. It is the way it is at this point and I will take it.”
The Brazilians didn’t need help from the referees, but they “stole” the trophy right at the death thanks to a brace from Maurice Affonso that cancelled out Judas Moseamedi’s goal that had given Maritzburg the lead.
Sundowns desperately wanted this trophy, which was evident not only in how they played but also was shown in a chain of messages that were mistakenly forwarded to a Whatsapp group that includes the media by the club’s spokesperson Alex Shakoane who is technologically challenged.
In those messages Mosimane said, “We must go win the Telkom cup, Nedbank Cup, (CAF) Champions League and win the PSL (Absa Premiership) on the last day of the league…Make history! Football is just testing our character at the club, and this phase we are currently facing always happens in every year I have been here and we succeeded winning trophies.”
The Team of Choice faced Sundowns at the wrong time, when the Brazilians were in their element after enduring a rough patch that had seen them wobbly in the league and the MTN8. The club bounced back stronger to win the Telkom Knockout.
Just like the bumbling hijackers from KwaZulu-Natal, the Team of Choice lost this trophy after momentarily having their hands on it following their dominant performance in the first half.