by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – THE fate of the Absa Premiership trophy has degenerated into a conundrum now that the financial institution has ended its partnership as the headline sponsor of the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
It is unclear where the trophy, colloquially known as Big Ears, will eventually end up, unless if Mamelodi Sundowns won it at the end of the season, whose completion is itself shrouded in uncertainty following the worsening outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Brazilians were second on the table when the season was deferred in March.
They are four points behind leaders Kaizer Chiefs, with a game in hand.
Should the team from the capital city stage a come-from-behind rally and topple Chiefs, as was the case in 2013/14, coach Pitso Mosimane’s side would make it three titles in a row and probably have the trophy for keeps.
They would emulate cross city rivals, SuperSport United, who won the Absa Premiership title thrice in a row between 2007, when the bank became the main sponsor, and 2010. A new trophy had been designed when Absa came on board.
It is not certain if the trophy will be discontinued and a new one designed.
The current silverware was crafted in place of the one SuperpSort United tucked neatly and locked safely into their teeming cabinet after an improbable treble under Gavin Hunt.
Coincidentally, Hunt is now at the helm of Bidvest Wits, the 2016/17 winners of the league, who recently sold their status in the elite league to first division campaigners, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila.
It is also a coincidence that Sundowns were the last side to win the league when it was still under the sponsorship of South African Breweries, through its Castle brand.
They were under the tutelage of Gordon Igesund.
Downs are the most successful side in the PSL era and are one of only four winners of the trophy under Absa’s sponsorship, alongside Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, SuperSport United and Wits.
In fact, the Brazilians have lifted the Big Ears a dominant four times. They have finished runners-up three times since the advent of the Absa Premiership.
SuperSport’s three titles underscore how the Absa Premiership has been an exclusively Pretoria affair.
In fact, Chiefs and Pirates’ two titles apiece and Wits only title demonstrate how the Absa Premiership has been a preserve for the Gauteng Province.
The last time the league was won by a team from out of the province is a distant memory. It was in 2001/02 when the unfashionable Santos from Cape Town clinched a rare Castle Premiership title, under the Durban-born Igesund.
Luxolo September, the PSL spokesperson, was non-committal as to the destiny of the trophy that is one of local sport’s most prized possessions.
“As you can imagine, at the moment, we have a number of pressing issues,” September responded.
“We are now focusing on the programme towards resumption of football. Once that happens, I will be happy to have this chat,” he assured.
Absa has ended a 16-year relationship with PSL, 13 of which have been as sponsor of the Premiership.
PSL is yet to confirm a new sponsor. It is a norm that a new sponsorship culminates in a new trophy, as is suggested by Absa’s coming on board. New trophies were also unveiled as MTN, Nedbank and Telkom became cup sponsors.
– CAJ News