As is the case with most big derbies everywhere, members of opposing teams are often friends off the field, rivals on the field.
Saturday’s clash between Firefighters FC and Royal Citizens FC, both based in Makhaya, Khayelitsha, was no different and certainly lived up to the hype as the two sides battled for supremacy in a Mandela Park Local Football Association (LFA) fixture.
The two sides share a common history, established a year apart – Firefighters in 2009 and Citizens in 2009.
What mattered most on the day, however, was the game at hand and the points that separated them on the log. As things stood, Citizens found themselves in second place going into the match, ahead of Firefighters in third.
The top spot was theirs for the taking and in the end, they did just that, in part thanks to brilliant goalkeeping by Siyambonga Yako and his younger brother Akhile’s effort late in the second half.
Arguably the man of the match, Yako acted as a commander-in-chief, organising his defence well and producing a few spectacular saves, including a penalty in the last 15 minutes of the second half. Not to be outdone, Firefighters stalwart, long-serving goalkeeper Lindisipho Dano, 30, also gave a good account of himself and produced a little bit of his own brand of goalkeeping magic. Dano, who has been with the club since the age of 15, made sure his side didn’t go down by a bigger margin.
In an otherwise evenly matched affair, both sides had equal opportunity in the first half, with Citizens putting on the pressure in the opening minutes and creating opportunities but could not find the back of the net.
Firefighters had an opportunity to draw first blood thanks to a second-half penalty but Yako stood firm and denied them the chance to take the lead.
The deadlock was finally broken deep into the second half, thanks to a breakthrough in the middle of the park by Zuko Dyani to the left, creating space for Akhile Yako to cut inside the 18 yard and hitting the ball with his right foot to the near post, past the goalkeeper.