Last week, Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi described the Amakhosi dressing room as a cemetery-like cold place- but, the return of Samir Nurkovic has brought about some much-needed heat.
This season, Chiefs appeared a shadow of their former selves and largely struggled for consistency. They fell short of winning the league and started their season with a two-window ban still hovering over them, while they were without their top goal scorer from the previous season.
Their nomadic striker, who was out after undergoing surgery at the end of the last campaign, had reportedly had his neck turned by interest from Egypt and the gulf region, while he was yet to sign an improved deal with Amakhosi.
Nurkovic’s absence in the Chiefs starting XI was blatantly felt. In the 14 matches that Chiefs were without the Serbian, just three of them ended in victory for Gavin Hunt’s struggling side.
It didn’t help much that the 27-year-old was declared fit for over two weeks but could not play ‘due to other reasons’ as Hunt told the media.
But, having reportedly agreed to an improved deal in Naturena, a revitalized Nurkovic eventually returned, making a cameo appearance in their CAF first round second leg clash against Premeiro De Agosto, which Chiefs won 1-0.
He came on again for a 30-minute appearance days later, but there was nothing he could do after coming on as a sub in Chiefs 2-0 defeat to a Judas Moseamedi-inspired Maritzburg United.
“It felt fantastic to be back on the field after a long time, after a surgery and four months of recovery and training sessions and all that. I’m finally back on the field and I’m really happy to be there actually, to help the guys,” Nurkovic told Chiefs’ media department.
But in his first league start, ‘Kokota’ made his presence most felt. He scored the winner to give Chiefs a 1-0 win over a solid AmaZulu side in Durban. Three days later, he once again proved instrumental, providing an assist in Chiefs’ 2-1 over Cape Town City, to record back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
In two starts, Nurkovic made two goal contributions- talk about an immediate impact.
“Like I said a million times, my job is to be upfront and score goals and thank God I scored that goal in my first game after a long time. The feeling was unbelievable and I’m happy that I have made my contribution to the victory,” Nurkovic said.
For Hunt, having a focal point and a proven goal scorer at his disposal could be the catalyst that he and Chiefs need to turn their dismal start to the season around.
Meanwhile for Nurkovic, having put the politics behind him, if he does manage to replicate his feats of last season, he is sure to attract even more attention from elsewhere which could see him join club number 13 in his short career.