Having been canceled last year due to the Covid-19 outbreak, one of the biggest games in South Africa’s football calendar, the Carling Black Label Cup, makes its eagerly-awaited return on 31 July.
As it has since 2011, the annual fixture once again pits Soweto giants, Kaizer Chiefs, and Orlando Pirates against each other.
The two fan favourites will battle it out at the magnificent 94, 000 capacity FNB Stadium.
An initiative set up by Carling Black Label, the management of FNB Stadium, Pirates, and Chiefs, the popular pre-season competition was introduced specifically to get fans more involved.
Supporters are given a unique opportunity to become managers for the day as they get to select their preferred starting line-up.
They also get to decide the team’s formation, captain, penalty taker, and substitutes. Additionally, they get to vote for the man of the match.
This year’s launch was graced by retired Cameroon great, Samuel Eto’o, who turned out for Barcelona, Inter Milan, and Chelsea during his glittering career.
Speaking at the launch, held this week, Carling Black Label Brand Director, Arné Rust noted that every year organisers strive to introduce innovations to allow fans to experience the game of football differently.
He revealed that in this year’s edition, fans have been challenged to ‘change the game’ by experiencing ‘your game, your way’.
“As with each Carling Black Label Cup, we will be putting the power in the very capable hands of champion fans. Supporters will select their starting line-up as well as new and exciting game-changers, which will certainly amplify their matchday experience.”
Although the game will be played out before an empty stadium, Rust is confident the occasion will still live up to the hype.
“What will really set this year’s Cup apart from previous years is that fans will have access to all the game-changers, giving fans even more power and control of the game. No spectators are allowed at the stadium and only two fans representing the two clubs will become the Champion Coach,” he explained.
Rust further said fans will be allowed to make live substitutions on the game day via Twitter.
He said another game changer is of fans being able to choose the Man of the match also via Twitter.
“The game is all about the fans, they have all the power. Champion fans will now have access to player performance statistics, rich data, and insights on the two teams, made available on the Carling Black Label Cup website. With this kind of knowledge, the brand believes fans will make more informed decisions when selecting their preferred matchday squads essentially empowering every one of them to ‘Be the Coach’,” said Rust
For his part Pirates Coach, Josef Zinnbauer said fans always have ideas after and during the game now they have a chance to be the coaches and win the match. He said it is the best experience and exciting for them.
“Pirates fans have to fight for this cup and ensure that they win it for the 6th time. You have to have fun but the results are important. The game will be a week before the next season start and I would love my players to give the best and 100%,” said Zinnbauer
Chiefs Coach Gavin Hunt said this will be his first experience of cup and is looking forward to the game and the lucky fan who will be seating with him on the bench. He jokingly said he might even learn something from the champion coach.
“The fans take it seriously and they love it. The date of the fixture is important because it is so close to the start of the season. It is a pre-season friendly but the game must be played at the right spirit as well and make it spectacular,” Hunt