‘When we started the club, I made it a point with those founding fathers to say that, if we are starting a club, it has to be based on business principles – which means there had to be clear guidelines in terms of how we administered the club,” said Kaizer Motaung this week. That was 50 years ago.
This week, speaking on the sidelines of the first part of the club’s 50th anniversary celebrations in Phefeni, Soweto, he attributed Amakhosi’s longevity to that solid foundation.
“The fear when we started was that a lot of people thought this thing [club] would not last. I said [to them] that I was prepared to put my neck on the block as long as we were able to put good structures behind this whole set-up,” he said.
The Amakhosi supremo, known in football circles as Chincha Guluva, said emphasis was always placed on professionalism.
The professional set-up
“During those days, the professionalism of football was not at this level. So I wanted to make sure that we ran the club very professionally with the experience that I got when I went to play in the US.
“So we put up a strong foundation and ensured that there was proper management of the business and of the players. The game itself [had] to be run with a very professional set-up.”
Patience with coaches
Chiefs are regarded as one of the few clubs where coaches see out their contracts, so axing of Giovanni Solinas in 2018 was a rare decision made by Motaung.
For the record, Chiefs have had 30 permanent coaches in their 50-year history, with Motaung among those who have had more than one spell at the helm.
“Fortunately, I was a player myself and I know what goes through a player’s mind. I also coached the club for a short time [between 1972 and 1978],” said the 75-year-old. “I know what the coaches go through. Therefore, for us to be fair to the coaches, we need to give time and support so they can execute and deliver on their part.
“But that also applies to the players. You have to understand that, at the end of the day, it’s all a team effort.
“Soccer has evolved. It is no longer those days when you relied on one person and the coach called the shots ... when you had owners who thought they knew the game better than the coach.
“The strength of a team is putting together a strong technical team. The technical team has to have different expertise that contributes to the same goal. The team can benefit from that.”
Paying salaries on time
Although Motaung could not give financial details, he hinted that Chiefs were one of the best-paying clubs in the domestic league.
“In my 50 years here, no player of any era can come to you and say he was not paid for one game or for one month,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Fortunately, when we started, I was still playing, so I knew what [was] needed to make players go out there and fight [for the club].
“Our priority has always been that we treat these players with respect and make sure that we give them the right tools. And we do the same thing with the coaches.
“At the end of the day, it is those players who are going to give you the desired results,” Motaung said.
“You have to keep them in the right frame of mind, and the only way to do that is to make sure that you are not faulted for not giving them good service on your side.”
The club’s big fan base
Chiefs are arguably the best-supported club in the country. Motaung said their supporters’ loyalty has given Amakhosi an edge over other clubs.“When we started [the club], we identified the need for us to be in touch with the communities.
“This was one of the strategies we used when recruiting players. When we started, we played friendly matches around the country and made sure that every place we touched, if there was great talent there or maybe an outstanding player, we were able to get the player to play for us. And this is how we amassed the support,” Motaung said.
“As a strategy, our supporters’ club branches themselves identified the talent we could look at. So we got the communities involved and, in return, we did a few corporate social investment things that other clubs were not doing in their local environment. We got in touch with the people.”
Chiefs are in pole position to win the Absa Premiership title this season. Motaung said this would mean a lot to their supporters.
“For us to win the title [this season] will mean a lot to our supporters, who have been loyal and very proud of this brand.
“The support they have given us over the years has given us that extra edge over other clubs,” Motaung said.