A Fool And His Money…
At what point does one decide to walk away from anything associated with a person that one regarded as inspiration? When exactly should one begin the process of removing someone from that place in the heart that is only reserved for special people?
For fear of being seen to be confusing you, good reader, I must state upfront that I’m talking about Siviwe ‘Chippa’ Mpengesi, chairman of Chippa United. The shenanigans at his club have had tongues wagging for some time. I first came to know about Chippa way before the club got promoted to the top-flight, due to his interests outside of football, but I must admit it was his interview with Soccer Laduma editor Vuyani “Mr Vuyani” Joni, published in edition 993, that made me develop newfound admiration for him.
Listen to this: “Everyone was brought to this Earth by God for a reason. His plan is never to harm anyone, therefore no one was born to suffer. I didn’t worry about my background, as I couldn’t do anything about it, as an uneducated man, living in a shack and struggling. I couldn’t punish myself for something I wasn’t responsible for – growing up poor or not going to school. It was the fruits of the apartheid regime, but I had to believe in myself and the fact that God has a plan for me. I had to change my life around. I was a car guard, then a security guard but today I’m sitting here as the owner of a PSL club and also a businessman. Believe in God and yourself regardless of the circumstances. If anyone thinks they have it hard, they must look no further than my life story for inspiration because I came from nowhere.” These words tugged at my heartstrings and, in Chippa Mpengesi, I had found a reference point for whenever tough times arrived unannounced.
However, lately, my love for Mpengesi is in danger of extinction. His trigger-happy ways, firing coaches willy-nilly, have been the talk of the town even in a league like the Absa Premiership where club bosses are known to pull the trigger on coaches at the drop of a hat. The latest casualty is Joel Masutha, who had to vacate his position as the club’s head coach after only five games in charge. Clinton Larsen has since succeeded him, probably against the advice of family and close friends, and congrats to him for the well-deserved win over Maritzburg United on the weekend. Lest my stance is misinterpreted, let me make one thing clear: any club boss is within his rights to fire the coach when he or she deems it necessary, but Mpengesi is just taking it to ridiculous levels. It’s a circus down in PE. Patience can cook a stone? Not in that corner of the world, seemingly. And when he comes for you, unlike many of our strikers, he does not miss the target! Larsen is the club’s fifth coach in only this season – it must make David Thidiela green with envy. What gets my goat, though, is not necessarily that Mpengesi is doing the firing, but the manner in which he is going about it.
He has no regard for a contractual obligation. He has no respect for the dignity of these coaches with whose feelings he nonchalantly wreaks havoc. Amidst all of this madness, you’ve got to feel for the club’s fans, who at times have been so flummoxed by the happenings at their beloved club they have had to march to the Chilli Boys’ doorstep, showing their unhappiness about certain decisions. In fact, if one did not know better, one would go as far as saying Shukushukuma Ad & Print, the run-of-the-mill messenger service company in the ’90s Xhosa drama series Velaphi, was run better than the Port Elizabeth-based outfit. Seems to me that all that matters to Chippa Mpengesi is Chippa Mpengesi himself. If you don’t believe me, check what he is said to have told a radio station in an interview a few weeks ago: “You can call me a joke and all sorts of names, but at the end of the day, when we ask what do you have, who will be the joke? I own Chippa United, what do you have?” The statement smacks of arrogance, disrespect, pomposity and a wee bit of foolishness.
The fans make the club what it is. Big clubs like Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns have had their fair share of trouble and turbulence over their years of existence, including lack of trophies, coaches being escorted out of stadiums by police, fans invading the pitch and so on, but not once have you seen Dr Irvin Khoza and Patrice Motsepe wagging a middle finger to their clubs’ fans. That is because they are aware that fans and emotions go hand-in-hand, whether you like it or not, and that’s understandable to a certain extent because these people spend big money before they are to secure a seat at the stadium to watch their favourite teams. In the same breath, these club chairmen know that the livelihood and relevance of a club is dependent on the fans. To go on radio and brag that you own a club and that your critics do not own so much as a pair of shoes is high up there in the list of the most insulting of remarks.
The goings-on at the club would be so funny if they were not so tragic, and I wonder what role those close to the chairman are playing in terms of advising him. It’s been whispered in some quarters that there are bad apples surrounding Mpengesi and that he is quick to implement their recommendations. Next time he needs to pull the trigger, maybe he should start there.
What could be behind this type of behaviour though? Could it be the riches he has managed to amass from owning a club? If so, I hope Mr Mpengesi is well aware of the saying, “A fool and his money are soon parted”.
At the rate things are going at the club, one would be forgiven for thinking the chairman is after some record so as to make it to the Guinness Book of Records. In all honesty, though, it seems the only record he will achieve is being the only chairman in the history of South African football to lead his team to the glorious heights of the Absa Premiership and then (single-handedly) back to the dusty fields of the amateur ranks, all in less than a decade.
My suggestion? Someone sit this man down for a serious talk.
Catch y’all on the rebound,