When Highlands Park coach Owen da Gama walked into the press conference auditorium at the Orlando Stadium on Thursdday afternoon, he looked very tense, perhaps thinking about the tactics and methods he would deploy when he took his players through their paces later in the afternoon ahead of the MTN8 final against SuperSport United tomorrow evening at the same venue.
Da Gama then calmed down when he was told to put his phone on flight-mode to block any disturbance of the conference, or face being red-carded. He laughed before getting down to business, saying his biggest task was to make sure his players remained grounded in the build-up to the final.
“We have been working on them mentally because after we qualified for the final everybody thought their minds would be focused on that but we managed to keep them grounded and we won our last two games against Baroka FC and Polokwane City,” said Da Gama.
“It shows they have grown and matured and some of the senior players have helped as well. They need to go out and enjoy themselves. They have worked hard for this and they must just be let loose,” he added.
Meanwhile, his counterpart Kaitano Tembo spoke at length about the heartbreak that he suffered in last season’s MTN8 final against Cape Town City and he said he does not want to go through the same feeling of walking away full of bitter disappointment.
SuperSport United are in their third successive final and are looking to make it two wins out of three at the expense of the Lions of the North.
“It was very painful to lose it on penalties, we could have snatched it, we don’t want to go through that again,” said Tembo, who revealed what it would mean if he were to lift his first trophy in his second season as a head coach.
“Winning this cup will mean a lot to me because I will be able to show the coaches at development level that if you work hard you will get an opportunity.
“I look at where I come from, I have gone through the development structures of the club and I have been an assistant coach. I want to inspire those who are down there because it is not easy to get these opportunities.”