JOHANNESBURG – A dejected Owen da Gama spoke with confidence about how Highlands Park will bounce back from their disappointment of losing the MTN8 final on Saturday at Orlando Stadium.
The Lions of the North lost 1-0 to SuperSport United to end a fairy-tale run that had seen the team that was campaigning in the first division two seasons ago come close to winning the most financially rewarding trophy in South Africa.
Highlands’ inexperience was no match for SuperSport’s cup pedigree with Matsatsantsa a Pitori appearing in their third successive MTN8 final. Highlands missed a number of glorious opportunities while SuperSport held their cool.
“This is a learning curve for us,” Da Gama said. “A great experience for the boys. We will get there again and they will do better.
“I remember our first season with Silver Stars, we got to the final of the Coca-Cola Cup. We lost 2-0 to (Kaizer) Chiefs, but that made us a better team. We kept growing and growing.
“We’ve got a lot of young boys in the team, and this is part of the journey to get the team where we believe that we can get it.”
Da Gama made his players watch SuperSport collect their medals and lift their trophy, so that they know what it’s like to be a champion. They will do some introspection during the Fifa break so that they can come back stronger in the Absa Premiership.
“We will give them some time off, let them relax,” Da Gama said. “It’s still fresh. You can’t go to them and start shouting at the players. I have to congratulate them, they really deserve it. They have done very well.
“In some moments we were really on top of the game. This is a combination of inexperience and maybe a bit of nerves. It wasn’t our day, with the amount of chances we created.
“We will give them an opportunity to think about it while we do the same, let them come back refreshed and we will talk about it. We are a team that allows the players to talk, we allow them to express themselves.
“They’ll come back, let them open up and talk about their feelings. We will come back and we will find a plan on how to regroup.
“Our first game is against (Mamelodi) Sundowns. They are going to come quick and fast after that. I am happy about that, the quicker the games come, and we can move on from this.”
On Wednesday the Premier Soccer League will launch the Telkom Knockout, which should be a good distraction for Highlands in their quest to chart a way forward and build on their run in the MTN8.
“What I liked about the boys is that they were very disappointed,” Da Gama said. “And that’s a good sign for me, they were not just laughing and enjoying the moment. They were very down.
“We’ve got one and a half weeks to pick them up. We’ve got to start again, go back to the drawing board, fix what needs to be fixed and learn from this experience.”
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