Kaizer Chiefs search for their swagger
JOHANNESBURG – It will take Kaizer Chiefs years, and more than just winning the league this season, to regain what they lost in the Steve Komphela years and what subsequently followed after him.
Chiefs’ four-season barren run did more than to bring drought to a trophy cabinet that was brimming with success. The Glamour Boys lost their aura of invincibility and sparkle, which led to many minnows believing they could get the better of Amakhosi whenever they played them. This wasn’t the case in years gone by, Chiefs used to send shivers down the spine of their opponents.
The determination that small teams took to the field with when they played Amakhosi wasn’t with the belief that they could beat them, but with the hope that if they did they would be remembered for a long time having upset the country's most supported team who have won every domestic trophy a record number of times.
But under Komphela, due to his tactical acumen and the club’s poor showing in the transfer market, Chiefs fell behind their competitors.
Mamelodi Sundowns stretched their dominance in the country and on the continent. Orlando Pirates dusted themselves from their disappointment and returned to continental football while SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits grew in the quality of their squad and trophy additions. These teams worked the transfer market better than Chiefs who have had more misses than hits in the last four years.
Even club chairman Kaizer Motaung admitted their transfer policy needed to be looked into as the club signed several players only to release the bulk of them after just one season in Komphela’s first two campaigns.
That poor showing on the transfer market and lack of success under Komphela led to teams losing “respect” for Amakhosi on the field and daring to go toe-to-toe with the Soweto giants - a decent number of them lived to tell the tale.
Royal Eagles – who languish at the bottom of the GladAfrica Championship standings and have been beset by boardroom drama - will enter FNB Stadium tonight confident they can upset Amakhosi in the last 32 of the Nedbank Cup. Chiefs have fallen to teams from the lower leagues before in this competition, most notably in last year’s final when they lost to first division side TS Galaxy who were less than a year old in May.
This history, coupled with Chiefs’ regress and the fact that Eagles’ players can make a name for themselves overnight makes coach Ernst Middendorp’s job harder. Although he has monitored Eagles, he can’t know for sure which side will turn up tonight.
“The fact is that you sometimes see teams that play in the NFD, and then you see them a week or two weeks playing in a cup competition and the performance level is a different one,” Middendorp said. “Or you see an NFD team playing against a PSL team at a big stage, and then you see them a week later and you ask yourself, who are these guys? That means, according to an occasion, certain teams are capable to do something special. They (Eagles) have a number of players with PSL experience. We have to be active to do it right, and do things in a good way to be successful in the end.”