Absa Premiership

Will Celtic players pitch for Absa Premiership game?

Bloemfontein Celtic (File)
Bloemfontein Celtic (File)

Johannesburg - Amid reports of disgruntlement in the Bloemfontein Celtic camp, the big question is which Celtic players will pitch for their home game against Chippa United this afternoon.

READ: No radio broadcast for PSL fixtures this season

There has been much uncertainty in the club after players were paid late again, City Press has established. By late yesterday, it was still not clear if the players would pitch for today’s league fixture. They have been boycotting training and said they would continue to do so until they got paid. Celtic boss Max Tshabalala yesterday said he was talking to a group of local businesspeople who had stepped in at the last minute.

“It’s short notice, but they came in and were preparing to make an emergency transaction,” said Tshabalala, adding that he had assured Premier Soccer League chairperson Irvin Khoza that Celtic would honour their fixture this afternoon.

“We have agreed in principle with three local businesspeople who will take over and help with whatever they are able to put in. They are interested in the club since it’s still up for sale.”

Tshabalala blamed his woes on MTN pulling its sponsorship, saying: “This forced me to spend R30 million out of my pocket.

“I have taken a big knock. I spend about R4 million a month on the first team. The players have not come forward to say they are boycotting the game – we had a meeting with them on Monday to discuss our financial situation.”

Word is out that the future of the club is in jeopardy after one of the big five banks applied for a temporary liquidation of the club.

But Tshabalala disputed this, saying the club did not have an account with “this certain bank” and the business registration number on the documents being circulated on social media was Celtic’s.

“There are some people who are trying to force me out of the team. The liquidation story is not correct; we have not been served with any papers,” said Tshabalala.

“The team doesn’t deal with the bank mentioned.”

This contradicted the content of a document posted on social media by the SA Football Players’ Union.

The union’s president, Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe, said: “All we know is that the players said they will not play unless they have been paid. By today [yesterday], they had not seen the monies and we are not sure what will happen next.”

The big question is, can new coach Steve Komphela motivate the players to forget about their off-the-field problems and kick-start their campaign on a positive note today? They host United this afternoon at 15:00

Siwelele, as the Free State club faithful are called, were hopeful after Celtic unveiled new players and announced a partnership with a local company as their sleeve sponsors. The former Kaizer Chiefs mentor Komphela paraded the club’s new signings midweek. They include former Jomo Cosmos captain Thato Lingwati, Polokwane City’s former star Rendani Ndou and Ryan de Jongh of Platinum Stars.

In comparison, Chippa’s build-up to the new season has been smooth. The Chilli Boys have already given the public a sneak preview of what to expect by featuring in the Bokone Bophirima Maize Cup, which they lost to Free State Stars on penalties last month.

But coach Dan “Dance” Malesela warned about the difficulties of facing a Celtic side that has been struggling with off-the-field troubles.

“They’ve had challenges, but it remains to be seen how this has affected their players psychologically,” said Malesela, who was reappointed in May by the Port Elizabeth-based side.

“If their mind-set is okay, then we have a game on our hands. Again, the first official games of the season are not always easy by their nature.”

As for the Chilli Boys’ readiness, Malesela said his players had responded positively to his methods, including the new signings that include attacking midfielders Daine Klate from Bidvest Wits and Thamsanqa Sangweni from Orlando Pirates.

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