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Can You Really Blame Nkhatha?

Kaizer Chiefs are set to lose their most reliable striker so far this season, Kingston Nkhatha, after the Zimbabwean opted to sign a pre-contract with SuperSport United instead of the one-season extension offer which was tabled by the Naturena-based club.
 
I can already hear you questioning the use of the name ‘Nkhatha’ and ‘reliable’ in the same sentence because of his low strike-rate, however, there has to be a reason why he has featured more than any other Chiefs striker in Stuart Baxter’s team so far with 15 league starts, two substitute appearances and only one missed game out of the 18 matches played thus far this season. 
 
The player’s decision to jump ship has been criticised by many, who have conveniently forgotten what Nkhatha has been subjected to by a section of his own supporters over the past 18 months or so – being victimised, walking onto the field, not knowing what to expect from his own supporters. Guaranteed of his technical team’s, teammates’ and the club’s support, but not sure if the same can be said about the most important people to any player on matchday – the supporters. Can you really blame the player for seeking a better working environment? Isn’t that the logical thing to do? The funny thing is that even some of those who labelled him a ‘cow’ are now questioning his loyalty… really? 
 
If you boo a player, surely that means you don’t want him in your team. Then, when he finally gets the message and decides to leave, why question his actions? Some have been quick to point a finger at the player saying he has turned his back on the coach, Stuart Baxter, who put his relationship with the club’s supporters on the line by calling some of them idiots for booing Nkhatha. He even put his job on the line at the club defending Nkhatha. Fair enough, but, to me, that’s just emotional blackmail because, although I admire Baxter’s bravery by standing up for his player (but obviously not for calling Chiefs’ supporters names), I still believe he did what he had to do – nothing less and certainly nothing more. A parent can’t demand a payment for raising his own child… it is their job! Baxter was 100 percent right to protect one of his own, but that doesn’t mean Nkhatha owes him anything. As a courtesy, though, I hope Nkhatha informed his coach about his decision to leave, or better still, that the club informed the coach of their failure to tie down the Zimbabwean striker to an extension when negotiations broke down, as per our Siya crew’s story on our website.
 
Furthermore, why would the club question the player’s loyalty or honesty when he, according to our ever hardworking Siyagobhoza crew, rejected their one-season-long extension for a three-year-deal in Tshwane? Who would accept a one-year contract over a three-year-deal? People need to understand that if football is business to the clubs, it can’t be just a job to the players. If you want to question a player’s allegiance because he gets a better offer elsewhere, remember that it is a business decision on his part and is nothing personal. I’m reminded of the interview I did with Mamelodi Sundowns’ hard-tackling midfielder, Hlompho Kekana, shortly after he signed for Bloemfontein Celtic from three-time league champions, SuperSport United. The Zebediela-born midfielder proclaimed, “Loyalty doesn’t pay the bills!” and that couldn’t be more relevant to Nkhatha, and possibly also Oupa Manyisa, who is also likely to break people’s hearts with a possible move away from Bucs this week.
 
Players have families to look after and their futures to secure, so let the clubs not use the supporters against their stars when they, the clubs, fail to give the players what they feel is due to them. Again, if football is a business to the clubs, it is equally so to the players, and whoever tables the best offer will get the player’s signature. This has absolutely nothing to do with loyalty.
 
Unlike the supporters, players can and will change clubs at a drop of a hat if they have to, as they only have a decade, if they are lucky, to make the most of their talent. You either pay them what they are worth, or you let them go. I know this is not something the supporters will like to hear, as they associate these players with their clubs and adore them, however the fans’ support isn’t enough. The players can’t look after their families through the supporters’ cheers and support on matchday. They earn their living through football as their only source of income, in most cases at least.
 
The AFCON is underway this week and the whole continent will come to standstill to see who will emerge as the champions to take over from Nigeria, who will be watching the spectacle on television at home. My only concern is the number of PSL foreigners at this tournament. We only have five foreigners flying the PSL flag: Kennedy Mweene, Mohammed Awal, Edwin Gyimah, Davis Nkausu and Mukuka Mulenga. This is a far cry from the over 120 foreigners we have on our PSL clubs’ books. What does it say about the quality of foreigners we have in the PSL? Please log on to our website and click on ‘Supporters Club’ to share your views on my article in this regard.
 
All the best to Bra Shakes Mashaba and his team… Go out and do us proud!
 
Cheers,
 
VeeJay

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