|TROUBLED TIMES: Steve Komphela and Orlando|
Pirates coach Muhsin Ertugral, who has already fallen
THE demise of Kaizer Chiefs as THE footballing force in South Africa is just slow enough to escape labels like “crisis” and “disaster”. But it’s not far off.
Yes, we should be more worried about our national side. Banana Bafana beat Senegal, only for coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba to find himself suspended for the friendly 1-1 draw against Mozambique for “unacceptable behaviour” (finger wagging, accusing Danny Jordaan of "not supporting me" etc).
|HELP REQUIRED: How most listen to Steve|
Komphela's post-match interviews
They are back in action on Wednesday night against their former coach Stuart Baxter’s SuperSport United at what may just be a near-deserted FNB Stadium.
There were plenty of fans for their clash at Loftus Versveld against Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday. So many it forced a 15 minute delay to the 3pm kick off. But it looked suspiciously like Masandawana’s KaboYellow were almost equal in numbers with the mighty AmaKhosi.
On the field, Sundowns have been ahead of Kaizer Chiefs for some time… probably since the day Baxter, who won the title twice in three years, decided to leave Bobby Motaung’s tortured regime weeks after his second championship.
Stuart told me he would leave if Bobbytrap, last week revealed in the Sunday World to have lost millions in a shopping centre deal, wouldn’t let him play a role in transfer dealings.
Of course Bobby, without a CV but in charge of the family business with his dad getting doddery, denied him that. And his replacement Steve Komphela has been suffering ever since.
Last season, under the sophisticated eye of Komphela, Chiefs finished fifth in the PSL after Motaung decided not to give PSL player of the year Tefu Mashamaite and top scorer Mandla Masango pay increases.
This season Bobby went a step further, publicly announcing a list of 20 players he wanted to get rid of, including R5m-a-year Siyanda Xulu and other players still under contract.
There were whispers of Komphela being not entirely happy. Especially when Motaung, having promised to lash out R50m on replacements, only spent about R5m on a bunch of free signings, two Chicken Inn Zimbabweans and Lewis Macha, a young Zambia playing in Mozambique.
I predicted disaster but Komphela confounded my pessimism with a strong start. While Mamelodi Sundowns - off winning the African Champions League - and BidvestWits fell behind in the fixture list, Chiefs made a cheeky trip to the top of the PSL.
But in truth, it was never going to last. Komphela has fiddled with his forwards, messed with his midfield and strewn his strikers all over the place.
His once-fantastic post-match talks have become mundane. Sometimes he’ll occasionally grasp for a phrase along the lines of “statistics are like a bikini, they don’t cover everything” but in truth we have seen him struck down by the pressure of running a big club having NEVER won a trophy in his career.
On Saturday, Sundowns were just too good for his bargain-basement squad. Chiefs scored a fortunate opener from what was clearly a Rama Mphahlele cross. Tebogo Langerman immediately hit back with an equaliser and Sbu Vilakazi - who always said he wanted to go to Chiefs but they refused to make a decent offer to Wits - produced a gloriously ironic winner.
Komphela produced the usual dross after the game, talking about concentration and improvement, but in truth referee Daniel Bennett allowed them to escape a clear Percy Tau penalty and Itumeleng Khune made a couple of good saves to keep the scoreline sensible.
And for the first time in 18 mediocre months, Komphela looks seriously vulnerable. Midway through the second half, he threw on injury-plagued free signing Keagan Buchanan as Chiefs searched for a winner. But instead of taking off defensive midfielder Willard Katsande, who wasn’t having his finest afternoon, he benched Siphiwe Tshabalala, who can always be relied on for a good delivery or a cunning free-kick.
That was the shaky substitution of a troubled coach. A defensive move when his side were crying out for attacking inspiration.
Komphela sent lofty defenders Tower Mathoho and Rama forward late on in an attempt to force an equaliser. But by then 87 minutes had been played. On the social networks, resignation had already set in. Another defeat, another disappointment.
Shakes Mashaba may be in difficulty with the national job. But I suspect Komphela is rapidly heading for the same fate. Big jobs demand big personalities. People who have won major silverware. Neither man measures up.