All Eyes On Chiefs
The 2018/19 pre-season is only a week or two away, yet Kaizer Chiefs still don’t have a head coach and still need to reinforce their squad to improve on the past three seasons that have been devoid of silverware.
Just as I was planning on the content of this column, Orlando Pirates – Chiefs’ arch-rivals – announced nine new signings that are expected to play a major role in the team next season and going forward. This is a team that finished second last season and looked to be a much-improved side compared to the season before. Their new recruits are a sign of a team not resting on their laurels and going for broke next season. Bucs’ announcement came a few days after League champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, announced the acquisition of former Bucs midfield maestro, Andile Jali, who will be looking to rekindle his combination with Oupa Manyisa in that star-studded Brazilians’ side. Jali was one of the big-name signings Chiefs supporters expected to see at their club this transfer window but, sadly, they lost the bidding war against Sundowns.
The fact that the top two teams from last season have already confirmed deals and given a sign of things to come doesn’t sit well with the multitudes of Amakhosi supporters who can only salivate on the confirmation of these deals. They’ve been ridiculed by their counterparts from the two teams and the team’s performances have not helped their cause at all. The fact that they were dominated on the field was frustrating and a bitter pill to swallow. However, being dominated off the field in the transfer market can only worsen and add salt to the wounds. What about Vincent Pule being heavily linked with Amakhosi and reportedly having signed a pre-contract with them, only for his name to appear on the list of the nine new signings by Pirates. Talk about having one up on your arch-nemesis!
Chiefs are yet to announce their coach and, according to information on my desk, that’s not because they are waiting for the right time to make the announcement. It is simply because they’ve not crossed the t’s and dotted the I’s yet. One would have hoped that Chiefs’ search for coach Steve Komphela’s successor would have been over by now, considering the fact that the signs were there that Jola wouldn’t see himself past June in the hot seat. It was also rumoured that the club was inundated with job applications for the vacant post but, alas, the post remains vacant.
As we approach a very delicate yet important phase of the campaign, pre-season that is, Chiefs are already on the back foot compared to their two arch-rivals who will go into the pre-season pretty much on the same page. Chiefs still need to get to know their coach, that is when the search is finally over, and they also have to do the squad overhaul that they promised towards the end of the season. Just the head coaching change is enough to upset the applecart as different coaches come with different philosophies and ways of doing things. Having a new coach and a bunch of new signings just a week or two before pre-season is not ideal at all because there’s simply not enough time for experimenting and teaching new things while getting to know each other, before the start of the season. This is exactly why many successful teams keep the core of their squad and only add a handful of new faces to freshen up the team. Sometimes these new signings aren’t expected to hit the ground running. They are brought in for future purposes.
A case in point is that of Jeremy Brockie at Sundowns. While everyone was alarmed at the fact that the Kiwi was not scoring goals for Sundowns, his club was looking at a bigger picture because they didn’t sign him under pressure or for immediate results. Coach Pitso Mosimane made it clear that Brockie’s acquisition was not about making an immediate impact. He was brought in, largely, for the CAF Champions League and who can say Brockie will not have had enough time to find his feet at Downs when the Champions League campaign resumes?
Can the same be said about Leonardo Castro, for example, who crossed the floor from Sundowns to Chiefs? Absolutely not! The difference between the two cases is simple. Sundowns signed their player ahead of time, while Chiefs lured Castro under immense pressure and expected him to be the solution to their goalscoring woes. This is a player who was injured and was also not enjoying regular game-time at Sundowns. From warming the bench at Chloorkop straight to the starting line-up, and expected to be the goalscoring Messiah, at Naturena! That’s the fine line between a new signing making an impact or failing because no two clubs are the same. Siphelele Ntshangase hasn’t lived up to his billing so far at Chiefs and do you know why? There was no time for him to find his feet as he joined a desperate team that expected immediate results and impact from him, which is the worse situation for anyone to find themselves in. All eyes will be on Chiefs to see what they have in store as they try to redeem themselves after three seasons of huffing, puffing and suffering.
Here’s to hoping that Chiefs have an ace up their sleeve and will surprise us with top-quality signings and a coach that will be able to get cracking and turn the club’s fortunes around. Whether we want to admit it or not, South African football needs Sundowns, Pirates and Chiefs battling for top honours. These three teams are the mirror of our football and whenever they’re not on top of their game, the beautiful game suffers. This is, by no means, any disrespect to the other teams but just the way things are.