A mighty fall

Reneilwe Letsho-lonyane could follow others and leave Naturena 
PHOTO: Charle Lombard / Gallo Images
Reneilwe Letsho-lonyane could follow others and leave Naturena PHOTO: Charle Lombard / Gallo Images

The core of the Bafana squad used to come from Kaizer Chiefs. Timothy Molobi investigates why this is not happening any more

I agree with an astute Chiefs supporter who remarked that having money did not necessarily mean knowing how to run a football club.

He was referring to the club’s football manager, Bobby Motaung, the man in charge of signing players at Amakhosi.

The conveyer belt at Naturena used to churn out golden footballers. The calibre of Chiefs recruits has always been an enigma, the envy of any football coach and the pride of millions of followers.

Think Ariel “Pro” Khongoane, Pule “Ace” Ntsoelengoe, Nelson “Teenage” Dladla, Joseph “Banks” Setlhodi and Abednigo “Shaka” Ngcobo.

Then there was the era of Neil “Mokoko” Tovey, Lucas “Rhoo” Radebe, Shaun Bartlett, Doctor “16 V” Khumalo, Donald “Ace” Khuse, and later Jabu “Shuffle” Pule and Tshepo Molatedi.

These icons could have been leading lights in many world-renowned teams or have walked into any Bafana Bafana team in any era.

One would expect the cream of the senior national team to emerge from this same gold and black outfit.

But this week, only three Chiefs players were called up to Shakes Mashaba’s Bafana team – centre back Eric Mathoho, goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and a surprise inclusion, William Twala.

It makes one think this could be directly linked to the downward spiral of Bafana. The recruitment to or products from Chiefs’ huge junior ranks are far from what we became used to over the years.

Current situation

Chiefs face the prospect of finishing the season without silverware, but they have no one but themselves to blame. Signs of their demise have been there all along, despite their winning two trophies last season. They did not raid the market thereafter, as they used to. Thus, Amakhosi have not attracted the calibre of players associated with the Chiefs brand.

The soccer world is still wondering what made Bobby Motaung pay for someone like Bongani Ndulula this season. Since his heady days with the Under-23s, the big forward has flattered to deceive.

He did it at Orlando Pirates and was even worse at AmaZulu, yet Amakhosi were willing to take him even with question marks about inconsistency hovering over his poise and finishing.

No disrespect, but “Drogba” would never have smelt a Chiefs shirt 10 years ago. The same applies to Siphelele Mthembu, a towering man
with the speed and aggression to scare many defenders. But lo and behold, his composure inside the small box and final touch are a big letdown.

Even some imports, such as Sola Matovu, Ivan Bukenya and Ovidy Karuru, are a few steps behind the Chiefs of yesteryear.

Contract negotiations

Gone are the days when every player dreamt of donning the gold and black attire of the Glamour Boys of South African football. It is the lure of money that calls the shots when players want to move.

But it seems Chiefs bosses have not woken up to this reality, as they often lose out on potential good buys. Granted, agents and clubs inflate their prices when Chiefs come calling, but they also have to compete in the market.

Motaung is loath to meet some players’ demands. Chiefs have lost some key players as a result of this: Tinashe Nengomasha, Tefu Mashamaite, Mandla Masango and Kingston Nkhatha.

They offered Nkhatha a one-year extension and lost him to SuperSport United, who gave him three years. Now it seems the polished Reneilwe “Yeye” Letsholonyane could be headed for the exit over the same issue.

Guaranteed berths

No matter how badly they perform, some Chiefs players are guaranteed their starting berths the next time the team takes to the field – because there is no depth in the team.

Development structures

Before the start of every season, Chiefs unveil youngsters from their development structure, but a whole season can pass without them seeing action.

Whereas the likes of the Jabu Pules went on to shine in the first team, no one from development has made strides. Even though players such as Hendrick Ekstein, Zitha Macheke, Chris Matombo, Andisiwe Mtsila and Sibongiseni Ngcobo have been promoted from the development structures to the first team, only Ekstein has been used, and sparingly, in the first team. Macheke and Matombo have been loaned to Chippa United.

Chiefs did not have a player in the national Under-23 team that qualified for the Rio Olympic Games in Senegal last year. The club had only one player – Wiseman Meyiwa – in the South African national Under-17 team that went to the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Chile last year.

The solution: Money talks

The Motaungs need to spend money to attract good players who will restore the club to its former glories. With the kind of money the club gets from sponsors and the grant from the league, they should be able to flex their financial muscles in the player transfer market.

Technical matters

Without a technical director, who does Steve Komphela talk to? Amakhosi need a technical adviser, like they had in Stanley “Screamer” Tshabalala.

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