|Hurt, not bitter: Jimmy Tau fought back from an|
horrific ankle injury only to be ditched by Kaizer
Chiefs after eight years at the club
JIMMY TAU has finally broken his silence on Kaizer Chiefs’ shocking decision to ditch their former captain.
In a moving interview on Robert Marawa’s Metro FM radio show, the 32-year-old footballing diamond from Kimberley gave us an intriguing insight into the backroom politics at South Africa’s biggest club.
Tau, articulate but emotional, said he was “hurt but not bitter” about the AmaKhosi’s decision to let him go. He explained in detail how he had attended extra training sessions and worked in the gym with physiotherapists to make a “full recovery” from the horrific ankle injury he suffered in the final game of 2012 against AmaZulu.
The man whose surname means "lion" explained: “I worked very hard, I played for the reserves towards the end of the season. The second last league game, against SuperSport, I was writing an exam but the last game, against AmaTuks, I was on the bench, I joined the camp on the Friday.
“I was ready to play. The coach supported me. The only reason I didn’t get back in to the side was because they were doing so well, winning the PSL for the first time in eight years and then taking the Nedbank Cup.
“But the coach saw it all. He saw how hard I worked. Stuart Baxter told me he wanted me to stay. He said he had recommended a new contract for me. I thought I had another season. But they called me in on a Thursday, my agent and Bobby Motaung, the football manager.
“Bobby told me I wasn’t in the coach’s plans. That there was no place for me at the club. I have to respect that decision but I must say I was hurt. Not bitter, but hurt.
“I couldn’t understand it. The coach had left on holiday a week before. And Bobby told me I wasn’t in his plans. It was very confusing.”
Marawa asked Jimmy if he had any proof of Baxter recommending a new contract. There is none. Tau was reluctant to criticize the club, he repeated the word “respect” several times: “I must respect their decision. They gave me a great opportunity. They allowed me to complete my studies. I will always be grateful to Kaizer Chiefs.
“No South African footballer has become a major businessman since Kaizer Motaung and Jomo Cosmos in the 1970s. That was my challenge. Not to be an assistant coach or something like that. It’s in God’s hands. What has happened is an opportunity for me.
“I know I will get through everything - not because I am tough but because it’s God’s will. This is a lesson to young footballers living in the comfort zone. You cannot rely on the longevity of a professional football career.
“What they have done to my career – not my life – hurt me. But I will survive it. This is a new chance for me. Bobby said the coach didn’t want me, but I have said there are non-football reasons involved.
“Is there another club that wants me for next season? I don’t know about that! Let’s see what God decides!”
Marawa asked the question I was begging for on twitter: Did Bobby Motaung, currently on bail for corruption charges after his dealings in Mbombela, feel threatened by a popular leader who left arch-rivals Orlando Pirates to join the Amakhosi in 2005? A man who played 170 games for the club and eight for his nation?
Jimmy shrugged. He said: “I have given this club respect. I have given Chiefs everything. I played there for eight years. I was captain for three years (before Vladimir Vermezovic’s harsh decision to remove the armband in 2011), I captained in four cup finals, we won three of them.”
Marawa’s probing continued. At the end of the interview he asked: “Jimmy, I wanted to ask you about the Chiefs celebrations. The pictures. Was there one person who was left out, isolated? You’re smiling, you agree with me.”
With that, twitter exploded. Everyone wanted to know who Marawa meant. They wanted to know if Baxter really DID want Tau to stay… and whether “Bobsteak” really was threatened. Many suggested Jimmy was “seeing” Bobby’s sister Jessica, the club’s elegant and effective commercial manager.
It’s hard to respond to those questions in 140 characters on twitter. But I think the answers are obvious. Of course Bobby Motaung WAS threatened by Jimmy Tau, a man I have long tipped for a political future in a nation crying out for charismatic leadership. Crikey, I’d have the man as president tomorrow and so would the estimated 15 million AmaKhosi, I’m sure.
And then there’s Bobby. I spoke to the Hawks captain in charge of the investigation in to the Kaizer Chiefs Football Manager three months ago. Motaung stands accused of corruption during the building of the magnificent giraffe-supported Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga before the World Cup.
Further trouble erupted when Chiefs played home games at the stadium, which struggles to find lucrative post-World Cup matches given the city of Mpumalanga has no professional football club. The speaker of the local council was shot dead after revealing details of alleged corruption.
When I got hold of the Hawks captain I said “you probably can’t say much about the case” but he snapped back: “You think I’d arrest Bobby twice without good evidence? We have a water-tight case against him. He is going to jail.”
I have heard nothing since. It's a year since the first court appearance. Nobody wants to talk. But I do know this. Bobby is in a difficult position, though he has never been suspended over the allegations. Mbombela municipal speaker Jimmy Mohlala is dead. The corruption hasn’t gone away. Neither have the questions.
But there has been no explanation from Chiefs about Bobby, the tough guy who once sneered: “I didn’t need a CV to get this job, this is a family business.”
When a charismatic bloke like Jimmy Tau comes along and gets on well with Jessica and Kaizer Junior – both of whom enjoyed a vastly superior education to older sibling Bobby – he is automatically a threat given the circumstances, not to mention the advancing age of the legendary Kaizer, the club's founder.
My theory is this - and it’s backed by what was said on Robert’s show tonight: Jimmy Tau WAS recommended for a new contract by Stuart Baxter. But once Baxter had gone on holiday Bobby was able to wield the axe for “non-footballing reasons” as he remains a fearsome presence within the club, the man who decides on contracts and transfers.
The last thing Bobby wanted was a heroic player approaching retirement at Naturena. Jimmy himself said: “I did not want to leave the club at the end of my playing career. I was hoping for a role after I finished.”
And what role would that have been? Jimmy would make a perfect Football Manager, interacting with the modern business plans put in place by the popular Jessica. Tau talks well, thinks ahead, has a good relationship with Kaizer Junior, who will also take a backroom role soon.
And where would that have left Bobby Motaung? Sure, he’ll deny. He’ll threaten. He’ll blame Baxter. We’ll have a look at the double celebrations. Try to find Marawa's mysterious "isolated one".
Some will say Bobby is the man, untouchable. Others feel sympathy for Jimmy. I know where I stand. The only other answer is that Baxter or Tau are lying. I choose not to believe that. But hey, it’s only a theory.