The force behind SuperSport’s success

2010-03-21 11:26

Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs are still licking their wounds, dazzled and mesmerised, wondering how ­Matsatsantsa a Pitori have managed to seize the title three times in a row – in 2007, 2008 and last year.
These clubs must be muttering to themselves: “How the hell did SuperSport win the title not once, not twice, but three times in a row? Where were we and what were we doing when this happened at such a canter?”

Indeed, what was the secret behind this rare, amazing and epoch-making achievement?

The answer could also have been partly found on the touchline, where coach Gavin Hunt and his assistant, Thomas Madigage, repeatedly gesticulated, shouted and sometimes screamed until their voices were hoarse.

The two equally celebrated each goal by their charges with their trademark boundless, almost child-like ­excitement, chasing each other, ­exchanging hugs and punching the air.

Throughout the three seasons, the club’s players showed and maintained an excellent work rate, physical prowess, bottomless lungs and ­hydraulic legs – qualities even more intensely required in footballers these days.

The actual answer to their success, however, is to be – and has over the years been – found in the unique leadership style of Khulu Sibiya, the club’s chairman since its inception more than 10 years ago.

It is often said that “if life be but a dream, happy is he who can make the most of the illusion”.

Sibiya has indeed embraced these aphorisms with alacrity in his admirable leadership of the club.

Sitting “alone” up in the stands, ­always appearing calm and well controlled, yet almost seething inside with nervousness and praying hard for his team’s success, he is almost ­always oblivious to anything around him, whether it be the blaring of the club’s band playing or the screaming fans; his only focus is his team on the field.

“You need nerves of steel out there,” he says. “That is what makes football so exciting. The amazing thing is that you never get used to it. It also varies from match to match. You are more nervous in some games than you are in others. One is mainly sustained by the love of the game, which never stops growing.”

The former Orlando Pirates goal-poaching striker knows the ins and outs of the game.

However, you need to have known the man for a long time to understand where he gets his drive from.

Sibiya is simply a perfectionist by nature, bolstered by an unlimited ­patience in waiting for success.

He clearly knows that you cannot win them all.

Another factor contributing to the club’s success is the close relationship between Sibiya, administrative staff, technical staff and players.

He adds: “The success of anything, be it in business, family or sports, is made easier when there is mutual ­respect among all.

For instance, I don’t walk into the dressing room and start shouting when we have lost. I get in there quietly and will only say something when I am invited and given a chance to do so by the coach. It’s his territory; he is in charge and I have to respect that. “Because I played football at the highest level, I know how to conduct myself with everybody in the team.”

He admits, though, that SuperSport epitomises his business philosophy, which is to combine decisiveness with niceties and head-long abandon with hair’s-breadth calculation.

He knows the virtue of restraint as well as the exhilaration of onslaught.
Everything he touches seems to turn to gold, from his days as a goal-scoring star at Pirates to being editor of City Press.

His leadership skills were obvious from his early days as a youngster as we were growing up together in Mofolo, Soweto.Some of his rare achievements include being:

The youngest captain of a team that inflicted the worst defeat in the ­history of Pirates. He was only 19 when he led Orlando City Ramblers to a 9-1 ­humiliation of Pirates at the Moroka-Jabavu Stadium in September 1969. Then known as “Brainsby”, he scored four of those goals;

Appointed editor of City Press in 1988 after only 10 years in journalism;

One of only three former football legends holding the reins as chairman of a PSL club. The others are ­Kaizer Motaung and Jomo Sono.

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