Kaizer Chiefs’ FIFA ban could prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Naturena-based club, going into the 2020/21 season. While other teams have been busy in the transfer market, Amakhosi have been forced to watch from the sidelines, salivating at the quality signings that are being grabbed by their competitors.
This is because Chiefs are anxiously awaiting a decision on their transfer ban appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, following FIFA’s rule prohibiting them from taking part in the transfer market for the next two registration periods. This emanates from the well-documented transfer of Andriamirado ‘Dax’ Andrianarimanana from Fosa Juniors of Madagascar, two years ago.
With a new coach, Gavin Hunt, in charge, he must have used the last few weeks to familiarize himself with his new surroundings and the team he has inherited, while the players have also managed to get to understand their new mentor.
This ban could prove to be a good thing for Chiefs and I know you must be wondering why? Before we go any further, let me make it clear that this has nothing to do with Amakhosi’s come-from-behind 2-1 MTN8 quarterfinal win against Maritzburg United on Sunday. First of all, Chiefs go into the new season – a campaign that didn’t really have a pre-season due to the overlap of the previous season that was caused by the Coronavirus pandemic – as the most stable team of the Big Three, including Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns. The Chloorkop-based side has lost their longest-serving manager in Pitso Mosimane, signed and released a number of players and so did the Buccaneers. SuperSport United is another relatively stable team going into the new season, although they’ve lost a key player in Aubrey Modiba. Bidvest Wits are obviously now defunct, after selling their status to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC – who will go into the new season as the least prepared team – and that means from last season’s top five teams challenging for league honours, only Chiefs have maintained stability, after coming so close to being crowned champions. That gives them an edge over their rivals in terms of momentum and continuity, depending on how the other teams manage their changes.
I know some people will beg to differ, pointing out that the released players were either fringe or ageing and therefore their absence won’t be felt that much. Before you even go there, remember that football is just like family. Different players bring different characteristics and qualities. You may not value a player because he doesn’t seem to offer much to your team, but his teammates may feel different. Just because a family member means nothing to the world doesn’t mean they don’t mean the world to their family. They may not have anything fancy for the world to love them, but the love they will get from their family will mean the world to them. Therefore, every player has a role to play in the team, even if it is not on the field of play. You look at Thamsanqa Gabuza at Pirates. He wasn’t enjoying regular game-time, but at training, in the change room, leading the team to the field, he was one of the most important individuals. He led the choruses even when he wasn’t going to play and that may not mean anything to the supporters, watching from a distance, but that attitude can influence whether a player gets his contract renewed or not, even if he’s not playing regularly. His teammates loved him because he brought something they didn’t have, while they enjoyed the regular game-time he didn’t get. That’s why I said football is like family because once that bond has been established, it becomes difficult to break. If a half-sibling gets introduced to a family, chances are those who were already part of the family will take a bit longer to accept the new member and that’s because they’d closed ranks and now find themselves having to accept someone else into the family, unprepared. What happens after a new member gets introduced? The parents spend more time on the new ‘acquisition’ trying to make sure that they settle in well, get accepted and that’s all done at the risk of pushing those who were there before, away as they suddenly feel neglected and unappreciated. That’s where the parents’ balancing act needs to take place and the same principles apply to football.
If you think Andile Jali, Anele Ngcongca, Alfred Ndengane, Tiyani Mabunda, Xola Mlambo, Anthony Laffor, Wayne Arendse, Kennedy Mweene and Reyaad Pieterse, to mention just a few, for example, didn’t worry about their future when they reported for training for the first time, seeing the new signings that had been made by their clubs, then you’ve got it wrong. There may have been discussions between them either in private or in a group format where they must have shared their concerns. It is only natural when new players come in for people to get worried about their places in the team. That means the new signing will have to perform beyond expectations for him to be accepted into the team because he’s going to take someone’s place. That player may not reach his full potential, not because he’s not good enough but because of the environment he finds himself in. There are players who were signed with huge expectations, but they were not the same anymore, afterwards, and some were eventually released from their contracts. It has nothing to do with the player’s quality but simply because he was not accepted into the ‘family’ and was always seen as this half-sibling who is getting all the attention. When a half-sibling is open, a pass will not reach him and will be directed to an original family member who is in a worse position rather. The original family member will look for one of their ‘own’ and that will take time for an ordinary supporter to notice, while those who are intimately involved with the team will know what is going on. With the changes in the playing personnel made by both Downs and Bucs, their respective technical teams might find themselves having to deal with this situation, unless they nip it in the bud from the onset.
When you release 15 players, for instance, and sign new players, it affects the stability, focus and momentum of the team. It also speaks volumes about your vision and plans because you can’t do that almost every season and expect to progress. Luckily for coach Gavin, he doesn’t have to worry about all of that, for now, thanks to the ban and will have to work with what he has. Another positive to this is the fact that those who were sidelined by coach Ernst Middendorp will now get a chance to prove themselves and stake a claim for a place in the team. It is a new lease on life and they better grab the chance with both hands. Don’t be surprised if this ban becomes a blessing in disguise to Amakhosi, if Downs and Pirates take longer to find their feet with all the changes that have taken place in their respective camps.