Chiefs have lost their midas touch

2009-09-19 15:01

A LEAGUE table without Kaizer Chiefs among the top three signals something amiss at a club which has the reputation of sweeping all before them.

Behind the high walls of Chiefs Village in Naturena, south of Johannesburg, lies a trophy cabinet overflowing with an array of silverware that the club has annexed since its formation in 1970 right up to the 90s.

The club started as an invitational side known as Kaizer’s XI that picked the cream of the crop from the clubs they played against on a national tour.

The end result was a clean sweep of every title on offer and those followers who are long in the tooth still reminisce about how the club announced their arrival on the local soccer by beating Moroka Swallows and Orlando Pirates on the same day at the then SA soccer Mecca, Orlando Stadium.

Abel Shongwe, a former Amakhosi darling imported from Swaziland, this week said: “The current crop of players should double-check what it means to play for that club. It is a brand. They get paid too much while we only made our money from winning cups.

“Good players make the coach’s job much easier,” said the man known as “Chaklas”.

Despite having such a rich history and winning culture behind them, Amakhosi have failed to maintain their rich vein of form since the formation of the ­Premier Soccer League (PSL) 13 years ago.

Ironically, the formation of the PSL is one of several initiatives by club chairperson Kaizer Motaung.

Under the PSL banner, Chiefs have maintained their reputation as cup kings, averaging one knockout trophy per season.

Although the year 2001 went without a league title, the club still lived up to its reputation by bagging the BP Top 8, Coca-Cola Cup and the African Cup Winners’ Cup as some form of consolation.

The continental prize earned Chiefs the African Club of the Year award the same year.

Things took a turn for the worse the following season when Chiefs finished outside the top eight for the first time in three decades.

That signalled the beginning of a downward spiral, which prompted the club to recall former league-winning mentor, Ted Dumitru.

The vintage Dumitru lived up to expectations and ended Amakhosi’s league drought in a spectacular fashion when he guided the club to back-to-back victories in the 2003/04 and 2004/05 seasons. The feat was the club’s first league title in 11 years.

That Amakhosi only recorded their second Absa Premiership win in six matches against Platinum Stars midweek has again triggered a debate on what could be wrong with the glamour club of local ­football.

Before their win against Stars, Chiefs were tail-enders, which was a first for them.

Their average showing has been attributed to a number of factors.

Interestingly they all point at the club boss Motaung and his son, team manager Bobby Motaung.

As the person responsible for purchasing players, Bobby has often been slated for signing low-quality players. Most of his buys have been offloaded after each season.

“I don’t owe anyone an explanation. I talk about the same thing (the players’ subject) all the time,” he ­retorted this week.
“There is no crisis at Chiefs. The pressure only comes from the ­media.

“All we need to do is get our house in order in terms of getting back to winning ways. The league is a long journey.”

Once regarded as the boss of all bosses in South African football, Motaung senior had this to say in his weekly column on the club’s website, “Having said that, our current unfamiliar standing may not be used to ostracize us, rather be considered as one of those that may befall any team for that matter. Back in the days, we rallied after a shaky start to claim the championships as did Manchester United that came from an early four-match disappointing start in the recent Premiership race. I believe our temporary slump that has incidentally been fodder to our local football experts will fizzle once everything shifts into top gear.”

For a club that has good resources and a good financial back-up, consistency seems to be a difficult task.

Coach Vladimir Vermezovic arrived at the back of a debate – triggered by Kaizer – whether local or foreign coaches were good for Chiefs. With an impressive pre-season run, the wheels have suddenly come off in just the first lap of the league championship race.

Two wins in six matches for one of the “Big Three” raise alarms.

But Vermezovic is unfazed by a slow start to his tenure.

“I am not under pressure. The pressure is only coming from the outside. I work for people who understand soccer. Nothing can be done overnight,” said the Serb, who took over from Muhsin Ertugral at the start of the current campaign.

“It is not easy to wear the Chiefs jersey. That badge is very heavy and players must prove that it is about the club and not about them.”

As for his mandate, Vermezovic said “nobody told me you must do this or do that”. He jokingly added: “I was told to beat Orlando Pirates!”

The coach ultimately pointed at the direction of the players when he further conceded that “I am only part of the club as there are players. My job depends on the results. Football has changed – there is more money in the game now.”

Vermezovic must be warned not to wallow in the comfort zone that he “works for people who understand soccer”.

When Ertugral departed from his first stint at the club he had this to say: “I thought that Bobby was on my side. . .”

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