Zinnbauer and Middendorp greet, wary of Chiefs-Pirates derby looming
Kaizer Chiefs’ coach Ernst Middendorp and his new Orlando Pirates counterpart and countryman Josef Zinnbauer have met and become friends, they say, playing down any relationship beyond professional.
The Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) two German coaches have, though, acknowledged a mutual respect and wariness of each other as a February 29 Soweto derby between Chiefs and Pirates looms.
Middendorp was at pains to stress that his relationship with his countryman, who he had not met before Zinnbauer's appointment to Pirates on December 10, is the same as with any other coach in the PSL.
Chiefs’ coach played down the two sitting together in the stands at last week’s Absa Premiership fixture between Bidvest Wits and Black Leopards at Bidvest Stadium, which never kicked off as it was postponed due to lightning.
“I don’t have a relationship [with Zinnbauer],” Middendorp laughed. “He’s a global player in this coaching thing.
“It’s the same relationship I have with Pitso Mosimane, Steve Komphela, Clinton Larsen, Joe Zinnbauer. I keep a respectful relationship.
“If I’m sitting at Wits, what should I do now? I’m sitting there representing Kaizer Chiefs and then four guys come from Orlando Pirates — should I now run away, go higher, go lower? I was sitting there and that’s it.”
Asked if his German flag is ready for the derby, Middendorp said: “Actually, I feel like, I don’t know when last I have been in Germany. Something like 2017 now.
“So I don’t have this, that this is Zimbabwe or Mozambique or Yugoslavia. We [coaches] are global players.
“Pep Guardiola works in the EPL, and before that in Germany, where he was welcomed.”
Zinnbauer said he respects what former Hearts of Oak coach Middendorp has achieved in Africa and SA, where the Chiefs coach’s clubs have included Maritzburg United, Bloemfontein Celtic and Free State Stars.
“We talked about the bad weather on this day,” the Pirates’ coached joked about his meeting with Middendorp at the non-starter Wits game last Thursday.
“ ... We did not have a lot of time to speak, with a lot of supporters there, and my [technical] staff was there, and I spoke more with my staff.
“But in two weeks we have a game. We know this. We said, ‘Hello, how are you?’, and we didn’t speak about football.
“Ernst always speaks in English. I then talked in German and he gave me a little bit back in German.
“We had a meeting before, and this was very nice. He’s a very good guy. He has a lot of experience in Africa, and some success.
“He has, for me, done a great job at the moment. All clubs are hungry to beat Kaizer Chiefs right now. It’s not so easy when all teams want to beat your team.”
Absa Premiership leaders Chiefs meet sixth-placed Maritzburg United at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Second-placed Pirates travel to meet 14th-positioned Black Leopards at Thohoyandou Stadium on Sunday.