Premier Soccer League

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) is the better known name of South Africa’s National Soccer League, founded in 1996. The ABSA Premiership, which takes its name from its sponsor ABSA, is the PSL’s top league. Though just a young league, major storylines and quality play have dominated the PSL’s 16 years. Though there are 16 teams, there have thus far been three true powerhouses: the Mamelodi Sundowns with their five titles, the Orlando Pirates with their three, and the Supersport United with three of their own. The league is ranked as Africa’s 14th best iby FIFA as of 2011. The 2012 preliminary rankings suggest the PSL may drop behind Niger to 15th, however.

The PSL’s season matches up with much of Europe’s standards, starting in August and ending in May. Each of the 16 clubs plays every other team twice, once at home and once on the road, and then the champion of the regular season advances to participate in the Orange CAF Champions League. A wild knockout tournament currently known as the Nedbank Cup — it has been called by several names during its existence, which has been on again and off again since 1971 when it was called the Life Challenge Cup — produces a champion that plays in the CAF Confederation Cup, essentially the African version of the UEFA Europa League.

Unlike in other leagues, however, there is no question about relegation. The team that finishes in 16th place will be relegated each year, no exceptions. The team that finishes one spot ahead, in 15th place, also faces a playoff game with the loser of the promotion playoff game and the two teams that finished second in each of the two minor leagues, the Coastal Stream and the Inland Stream. These wild games offer intense betting, with unpredictable outcomes often the norm. While you may be able to make a quick chunk of change, there’s much risk involved in betting on this tournament.

Super Sport broadcasts the games for the PSL, and usually shows games on Wednesday and Friday nights, with occassional Saturday and Sunday broadcasts as well. For the 2011-2012 season, Super Sport owns the broadcast rights to games for the following 16 clubs:

  • Ajax Cape Town
  • AmaZulu
  • Bidvest Wits
  • Black Leopards
  • Bloemfontein Celtic
  • Free State Stars
  • Golden Arrows
  • Jomo Cosmos
  • Kaizer Chiefs
  • Mamelodi Sundowns
  • Maritzburg United
  • Moroka Swallows
  • Orlando Pirates
  • Platinum Stars
  • Santos
  • Super Sport United

The league has seen some serious drama in its existence. Gordon Igesund made waves in the PSL’s early days by taking the Manning Rangers to the championship despite being underdogs in several key matches. The following three years ended with the same result: the Sundowns winning it all. But, in 2001, Igesund found his magic once again, taking his new team, the Orlando Pirates, all the way once again. Amazingly, Igesund changed squads once again the following season, and won again, this time leading Santos, a Cape Town team, to the championship.

Scandals have also plagued the PSL. In April 2001, 43 fans died and 158 were injured in a stampede during a match at Ellis Park Stadium. The stands were packed, and the overcrowding proved fatal. Just three years later, a major match-fixing ring was brought down, and over 40 arrests were levied by the police, who dubbed the incident “Operation Dribble.” Those included in the probe were commissioners, referees, and linesmen.