When everything else works
The Absa Premiership 2012/13 is in full swing and there is air of optimism among the Kaizer Chiefs supporters. It is with reason of course. Not since 2005 has the team started the season this promisingly.
The Amakhosi have huffed and puffed for the past six seasons. They have watched their rivals Orlando Pirates getting all the praises for winning six trophies in two seasons. It was a painful experience for many Khosi supporters.
How quickly things have changed. Eleven games into the new campaign, Chiefs are on top of the log and there is little to suggest that they will slow down. However I believe they are well aware that the league has never been won after eleven matches. Coach Stuart Baxter is experienced enough to let his charges know this.
With the PSL's new innovation Q-Innovation, the Amakhosi were the first side to collect the winner’s cheque after eight matches. Three games into the second quarter, they have amassed nine points, setting them up for a possible second cheque.
Of course there are those who believe Chiefs will burn out as the season progresses. Others believe they are warming the top spot for defending champions Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns. Well whatever the case might be, there is no denying that Amakhosi are worth of their recent rich vein of form.
They say the league is a marathon and no league has ever been won after ten games. True that. Sundowns started the 2011/12 season with aplomb, only to falter at when it matters most. In England Manchester United led the race for most part of the season, only to be pipped at the end by their neighbours and arch-enemies Manchester City.
There are lessons to be learned here. However you cannot fault those who believe Chiefs are finally laying their claim to the coveted trophy. Their supporters have endured a series of disappointments in years gone by.
Club boss Kaizer Motaung showed his intentions at the beginning of the season when he opened his chequebook luring some of Mzansi’ s finest in the likes of Morgan Gould, Siboniso Gaxa, Mulomowandau Mathoho and Tshepo Masilela. It was also interesting to note that some of these players, despite being promised truckloads of money somewhere else, opted for Chiefs.
The hiring of former Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter seems to have done wonders for the team. There is a renewed energy about this team - a sense of self-belief and the will to win. Baxter’s arrival has seen the resurgence of several players, including Bernard Parker and the young George Lebese.
Like his countryman Jeff Butler, who oversaw Chiefs dominance in local football in the in the late eighties and nineties, Baxter is leading the Chiefs revolution. Even after being knocked out of two major cup competitions, Baxter refused to blame his playing staff, something foreign given the relationship between players and former coach Vladimir Vermezovic. Baxter has instilled believe in players. It would seem everyone understands their role and they are once again playing for each other.
There is healthy competition in the team. No one is guaranteed a starting place. Of course there will be those who feel they should be playing, however it is nice to see those who are on the bench or in the stands being involved in the game as much as those who are on the pitch.
For seasons gone by, Chiefs were accused of not having depth. Their own supporters turned against them, claiming they were not taken seriously by the powers that be in Naturena. The team that for many years pride itself for love and peace was hauled before the league’s disciplinary committee more times than their chairman Motaung would have wanted, as the supporters continued to vent their frustrations by throwing things on the pitch during matches.
How quickly things change in football. Chiefs are so dominant in the league that even the rival supporters are secretly tipping them for the championship this early. SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt, after falling against the might of Chiefs, declared Chiefs champions-elect.
The type of football the team is playing is hard to ignore.
The team’s performance has not gone unnoticed by the national selectors. Chiefs players are dominating the national team again. Since South Africa's readmission into the international arena, Chiefs always supplied Bafana Bafana with more players. This was with reason and now the team seems to be on the way back in contributing to the success of the national team this time around.
So what led to this turnaround of the country’s most popular brand? Many are asking.
First the chairman of the club, Motaung senior, should be commended for his vision and coming to a realisation that for his team to compete they need to have super stars. He opened his chequebook to bring quality players.
Chiefs are a preferred destination for many players again.
Who can forget how Mathoho wanted to leave his former team Bloemfontein Celtic only for Chiefs? He told the team they dare not to sell him to any team other than Chiefs. Celtic had to give in to the player’s demands. He is enjoying his football at Chiefs.
Depth is something that was lacking in Chiefs in past seasons. Now, after many of their seasoned defenders were out due to injury, there is someone ready and able to wear the jersey with pride and deliver.
The chairman has gone out of his way to make sure that the players are looked after. Gone are the days when Chiefs players dominated media headlines for all the wrong reasons. These new breed of players are grounded and understand their roles as team’s ambassadors.
Whatever happens Chiefs are on fire and the majority of South Africans seem satisfied. The league race is far from over as Baxter and his troops are well aware.
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