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All Eyes On Arthur Zwane!

It is always so fascinating to see how football supporters quickly jump to conclusions, even from a distance, whenever we feel like expressing an opinion. Football is a game of opinions, that’s true, but some opinions are more damaging than others. 

They start off as opinions, then perception and, before you know it, a reality – at least in our eyes and heads. A case in point is a recent picture of Kaizer Chiefs assistant coach, Arthur Zwane, cutting a lone figure on the team’s bench while head coach Stuart Baxter and second assistant Dillon Sheppard are sharing a moment about the game. From the picture in question, the Chiefs legend looks dejected, isolated and disengaged, which lead to so much social media attention. As if that was not enough, even former Al Ahly assistant coach Cavin Johnson added his weight and even questioned Amakhosi’s intentions and future plans for one of their former top players. 

Social media went abuzz about the picture and the rumour mill started linking Zwane with a move away from Naturena. Naturally, the reaction to Zwane being linked with a move to Egyptian giants, Al Ahly, to form part of the South African brigade leading the Club of the Century seemed more believable and received great reception, especially since this story surfaced a few weeks after Ahly had spent some time at the Naturena base, in preparation for their crucial CAF Champions League return leg group stage clash against Mamelodi Sundowns. Even some of Amakhosi’s self-proclaimed supporters were pro the move, citing their unhappiness at the ‘treatment’ their legend was receiving from the head coach. What is unquestionable is what Zwane means to Chiefs supporters, after serving them with flying colours on the field and transferring that same commitment to the touchline, ensuring the team’s future is in good hands by helping produce the next generation of Glamour Boys’ players. He also played a significant role in the team’s historic meteoric run in the Champions League, where they lost to Ahly in the final. 

Since that picture started doing the rounds, there has been more involvement, consultation, interaction and communication on the team’s bench. This either proves that there was a problem or dispels any suspicion of there ever being any existing tension or problems within the Chiefs technical team. Now that’s neither here nor there because only those who are close enough to the situation will be able to shed light on the two. What’s been most fascinating about this Zwane rumour or picture is just how selective we, as ordinary people and football supporters, tend to be when it comes to issues of this nature. Just recently, Chiefs goalkeeper coach, Lee Baxter, has been the most active and involved member of the technical team even when substitutions are to be made. You’d see the tattooed goalkeeper coach in deep conversation with an outfield player that’s about to come on, issuing instructions, while the two assistant coaches remained seated on the bench. No one had any issues with that! It was life as usual and we moved, swiftly, right along! No one saw anything untoward in this uncommon practice or even took an issue with it, not even the conspiracy theorists. No one felt the two assistants were being ‘sidelined’ and rendered useless and isolated on the bench! 

Before you jump the gun and accuse this writer of spewing bile and being divisive, this has absolutely nothing to do with nepotism. I know it will be easier to think Lee did all of that because his father was the head coach. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, that’s not the case and certainly not where this is going. Baxter Jr was the more active goalkeeper coach even during coach Gavin Hunt’s time, so it didn’t start after Senior’s arrival. The issue here is why were people quiet when this was happening and now suddenly start looking at the Chiefs bench with binoculars? Your guess is as good as mine! When Orlando Pirates hired Milutin Sredojevic to be assisted by Rhulani Mokwena, the same binoculars were used to monitor each and every move in that technical area. Once again, before you jump to another conclusion, let me put a disclaimer because I know how our readers operate. This is not me being two-faced, I still stand by what I said about the danger of elevating coach Rhulani at other coaches’ expense and running the risk of turning them against him, unwittingly. 

When Sundowns appointed coach Manqoba Mngqithi and coach Rhulani as co-coaches and then roped coach Steve Komphela in, all eyes were on their technical area. The moment all three of them were off their seats at the same time, issuing instructions to different players, everyone accused them of being a confused and chaotic bunch. To everyone, that arrangement was a ticking time bomb that would explode in no time, with the three working each other out of the system. Look at them now. Again, why are we so selective in our judgement and analysis of situations? Is there a subtle message that we are sending out there with this selective behaviour? Are we saying some are more equal than others?

If coach Zwane was the one sitting next to coach Baxter, in that picture, with coach Sheppy being ‘isolated’, would it have been as topical and attention-grabbing? Would it mean Sheppy was sidelined and unhappy at Chiefs? What we need to understand is that titles are just that, titles, and people find ways of getting the job done. If it works for them, then that’s all that matters. People find a way to operate within a system or structure so that they all have a role to play. Some members of the technical team carry more duties than their titles call for. Have you seen any one of the Sundowns coaches lashing out at a colleague to sit down or keep quiet when they’re addressing players? It doesn’t happen and that’s because they have their own system and if you see all three of them up at once, it means they are issuing different messages to different players and the game would have been stopped either due to an injury or water break. So, until Zwane tells us he’s being isolated and sidelined at Amakhosi, we have no reason to believe anything different. If coach Hunt and now Baxter – and their assistants – have no problem with the goalkeeper coach helping out with instructions, so be it. If coach Baxter finds engaging with Sheppy during the game works better and exchanging ideas with Zwane before the game and at half-time works, then who are we to judge? Once again, we don’t have to box people just because we have platforms to share our opinions, albeit unfairly. We have a responsibility to be fair in our analysis and stop spreading unfounded and malicious rumours. Let us also remove bias and double standards in our approach, so that we are consistent and not selective in our analysis.






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