Platinum Stars are not the best supported side in this fair land, and that might just be the understatement of the year. Dikwena’s home matches too often have the look of a ghost town at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, a few people dancing in the stands while the Phokeng side go about their business.
Even finishing as runners-up in the Absa Premiership last season, capturing the MTN8 title this season, and reaching the final of the Telkom Knockout doesn’t seem to have driven the people of this mining town to show any more enthusiasm for their hometown side.
All this is a bit of a pity, another reflection of the nature of the South African game, where, in terms of a supporter base, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates dominate the landscape. Yet it makes Dikwena’s achievements all the more remarkable.
Many expected Stars to go downhill this season, when Cavin Johnson left for SuperSport, yet if anything, under Allan Freese, Stars have got even better, in line for a cup double before the year is out.
My main impression of Stars this season has been an uncanny ability to adapt their game differing circumstances. My favourite match of the season-so-far was Dikwena’s free-flowing MTN8 quarter-final against Mamelodi Sundowns.
Sundowns took an early lead, and Stars had no real option but to take the game to the Brazilians, doing so with an extraordinary vim, the likes of Mokgakolodi Ngele and Tintswalo Tshabalala showing off a silky passing game that ended up turning over this season’s form side.
On Saturday evening against Chiefs, frankly, the Telkom Knockout semi-final was a bit of a bore, neither side really able to find fluency after the international break. But it was Stars who came through, their gritty defence coming to the fore on this occasion.
The experience of Benson Mhlongo at the back continues to be vital, while his partner at centre back, Tshepo Gumede, is one of the best young defenders in South Africa.
Issa Sarr, the Senegalse midfielder, meanwhile, has been a revelation in a defensive midfield role, and early candidate, to my mind, for player of the season.
Stars held off Chiefs, and found a sucker punch, through Thabiso Semenya. It was much the same defensive grit that saw off Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 final.
This is a side that has become even more difficult to beat than last season, and for that, Freese must get immense credit.