The 2017/18 PSL season is upon us, and the MTN8 will somewhat give the fans a direction on how prepared their respective teams are for the new campaign.
However, the competition isn’t really a measure of whether or not certain teams will do well in the league.
In the past, some teams won the MTN8 trophy, but failed dismally to compete in league matches, although winning the trophy gives them confidence and restored hope that they can offer more in the new season.
Moroka Swallows and Ajax Cape Town recently proved that winning the season’s opening competition doesn’t necessarily mean that the team is ready to compete for the league title.
The Dube Birds won the 2012 edition of the MTN8, but they were poor in the league throughout the 2012/13 season.
Ajax Cape Town also went through the same slump after beating Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 in the 2015 final, and it’s only fair to say that they have never been the same team since lifting the MTN8 trophy two years ago.
During the 2014/15 season, Platinum Stars did well in cup competitions – won the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout Cup – but they were never close to winning the league title.
There is a positive side to it though. Teams like Chiefs and Bidvest Wits showed the importance of building on the MTN8 success and went all the way to claim the league title after winning the Cup in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Orlando Pirates, who will be affected greatly by their failure to qualify for this season’s competition, also did well during the 2011/12 season as they claimed the famous treble for the second year running.
Nonetheless, their absence in the competition will give new coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic enough time and opportunity to try and solve the internal problems facing his team before the league matches officially kick off next weekend.
While the MTN8 success can be seen as a phenomenon that helps boost the clubs morale and also get the fitness levels up to the required standard before the real marathon begins, it’s not always a blessing in disguise.
Teams like AmaTuks did well in their first season in the elite to qualify for the MTN8, only to finish 11th in the league the following season.
This competition often favours the big clubs, and if they do well in it, they happen to do well in the title race which could be very tight this season looking at the number of clubs who finished in the top six last season.
It’s difficult for anyone to predict if teams that do well in the MTN8 would be competitive in the league, but Wits’ success taught us that it’s very important to do well in the tournament.
Taking it step by step without losing focus and being overwhelmed by the early success is what defines the true champions.