Wednesday, 28 May 2014

THERE WILL BE NO MORE LAUGHING IN THE STUDIO: RIP Isaac Ramaitsane "Shakes" Kungwane (2 February 1971 - 28 May 2014)

Can't believe he's gone: Shakes Kungwane
Stop the clocks on 90 minutes. End the turgid analysis. There will be no more laughing when a PSL game limps to half-time at 0-0. Shakes Kungwane is gone, at the age of 43.

Two weeks ago, the man I once called Isaac started feeling unwell. We thought it would pass. It didn't. After two days in intensive care, official news of his passing came this afternoon. Anybody who knew him just hoped it was another one of those social network rumours. It wasn't.

We will never see Kaizer Chiefs legend Shakes live in the studio again. The way he lit up those boring goalless clashes, always honest, never glib. The duo with former Mamelodi Sundowns star Zane Moosa was particularly sparky, usually resulting in both men breaking down in huge guffaws.

For me, Shakes was the go-to-guy. When interviewees were disappearing in droves on my Thursday morning show to attend training, I knew I could always rely on Shaaaaakes... not just for a chat but for a laugh, a bit of searing truth amid the guff so many spout about our beloved diski.

He wasn't like the rest. Careful to say the right thing, take the boring inoffensive way out. Shakes was pure kasi, he brought a knowledge, a depth I could never rival. When I addressed him as Isaac, he soon put me right: "Who's Isaac, Nealy?" He was a star who never accepted stardom. He would never leave Alexandra. He was always there for me, even when others turned their back.

On twitter, he never turned a fan away. He'd always respond, he'd always talk. He was superior to nobody while men with half his talent paraded around as unapproachable football and media stars.

I have a couple of interviews I can direct you towards.

There's this on Kingston Nkatha getting booed by Kaizer Chiefs fans last November: or this after Gordon Igesund's Bafana lost to Nigeria in the disastrous CHAN tournament

Mark Fish and I will spend much of tomorrow morning's Soccerballz on talking about the man, we'll try to get Zane and Kaizer Motaung Junior to join the mourning chorus but the thing is I CAN'T BELIEVE SHAKES IS GONE.

We'll miss you big man. You and your legendary left foot. And that booming laugh. We'll never see your like again.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Australia 1-1 South Africa: good result, but no need for a hero's welcome

Scorer: Ayanda Patosi
Gordon Igesund, take a bow. You failed at AFCON, you didn’t qualify for the World Cup, we were a laughing stock at CHAN and lost 5-0 to Brazil. But in Sydney yesterday, Bafana Bafana confounded Brazil-bound Australia.

A 1-1 draw against the Socceroos is not going to spark a hero’s parade at Oliver Tambo International but with New Zealand to come this week, it wasn’t a bad result given the circumstances.

Blitzed by withdrawals and heading towards the end of his contract, South Africa’s head coach gave Australia the worst possible send-off to the World Cup next month. They are drawn in something of a Group of Death with Chile first up, followed by the Netherlands and champions Spain, who haven’t lost a major tournament in three attempts.

If they can’t beat Bafana, with Thabo Nthethe and a grieving Tower Mathoho at the back, they are unlikely to get much out of that trio.

At this point, a special mention for Mulomowandau “Mouth of the Lion” Mathoho. While his multi-capped Kaizer Chiefs team-mates chose to take a holiday rather than representing the nation, our Tower chose to travel to Australia and when his cousin died he stayed to play in Sydney – he will return home today for the funeral.

That takes some guts. And Mathoho showed plenty of that as the Australians dominated the early exchanges. Senzo Meyiwa – watched by habitual No 1 Itumeleng Khune (he confirmed as much to me on twitter) – made six saves in the first 20 minutes and the Orlando Pirates stopper was excellent if unorthodox throughout.

His one mistake came just after Ayanada Patosi’s excellent curling goal for Bafana. Caught by a looping cross, he forgot just how high little Tim Cahill can jump. Bang, 1-1. Everton will confirm Cahill can confound with his head, despite his lack of height.

There was barely time to take a breath between the two goals which marked this final friendly for Australia. But there was plenty of time to take stock of Igesund’s new-look Bafana.

The stupid row with Igesund over Thulani Serero’s injury appears to have been forgotten. The Ajax Ere Divisie winner flew all the way Down Under and shone in midfield, where he will anchor South Africa’s engine room long after Gordon departs.

With Thuso Phala of SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns title-winner Hlompho Kekana quiet, Serero got through a lot of work – and took a look of heavy challenges – but emerged unbowed.

Igesund said: “The journey starts now. This is a competitive bunch of players, they will go places. 

"SAFA’s vision is to be No 3 in Africa and among the top 20 in the FIFA world rankings and these boys will play a major role in the realisation of that dream.

"This tour will mark the beginning of a new era in South African football.

“I am very excited with what I have seen from them in the few days we have been together. They are eager to learn and want to leave a lasting impression.

“I now hope to take this momentum to New Zealand and if they produce the same form, we will enter the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on a high. I have massive belief in this squad. The players have the right attitude, are talented and they know what they want.

But let’s not fool ourselves. This was a good result for Bafana but not a great performance. Too often the ball was wasted in midfield, possession was lost far too easily – and despite the muscular efforts of Bournemouth’s Tokelo Rantie, there was no sign of a revival up front for South Africa’s blank-shooting strikers.

What we did see was that the great “legends” of Bafana – who spectacularly failed to achieve qualification for the World Cup despite Ethiopia being docked three points during qualifying – are not badly missed.

There is depth in South African football. And we have young talent like Siyanda Xulu at Rostov, Peterborough’s Kagiso Nthle and AmaTuks Buhle Makhwanazi still to come.

So there is light at the end of the Bafana tunnel, whether Igesund departs when his contract expires in August or not. But for Australia? I won’t be betting on them in Brazil!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Football heaven for a Gooner on the Indian Ocean surrounded by Pirates

There's no point pretending. For me, Saturday by the sea in Durban was footballing heaven in a city where the diski sun doesn't always shine (just ask Golden Arrows).
It started early with the Super Rugby Sharks overcoming New Zealand's Crusaders despite red and yellow cards. An historic win to enthuse the locals, of which I was once one in the distant days of Umlazi's Bush Bucks.
Then to the sold out Moses Mabhida Stadium, where all roads were festooned with black and white.
Playing in a record FOURTH cup final this season, the Buccaneers went behind early but fought back to win 3-1 with Kermit Erasmus, a Nedbank Cup final loser with SuperSport United a year ago, the two goal hero.
Then to Europe where my beloved Arsenal, without a trophy since their penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United in 2005, found themselves 2-0 down to lowly Hull City's Tigers after eight minutes at Wembley.
Santi Cazorla crashed home the first response, Laurent Koscielny forced the game in to extra-time and Aaron Ramsey produced the epic winner to send the Gunners home happy and push me to the top of the twitter trends in distant Johannesburg.
And at the same time, Diego Simeone's unfancied Atletico Madrid held Barcelona 1-1 to clinch La Liga with a Champions League final against city rivals Real to come.
There were cup finals in Scotland, Germany and elsewhere we could mention, but in truth those three epic games concludes a lively season for most football-speaking South Africans.
Arsenal and Atleti will welcome a long-awaited return to ascendancy (as I write this next to the Indian Ocean, Arsene Wenger's trophy drought stands at around 22 hours) but it Dr Irvin Khoza who may be the most relieved man of all.
The controversial owner of our plundering Piratesmust have been wondering what had happened to his double-treble winners over the last couple of seasons.
With all those games in hand after the African Champions League we might have expected something slightly better than fourth in the PSL (they finished third last season) and the return of Vladimir Vermezovic looked like a serious problem.
But what was it VV said when the reached this fourth final? "These boys know how to reach finals, I know how to win them."
That proved more than an idle boast. Adding up those four finals (MTN8, Telkom KO, African Champions League and Nedbank) I reckon the Buccaneers added a cool R20m to their coffers this season.
And with Kaizer Chiefs stumbling when it mattered, a single come-from-behind triumph turned everything around for the Pirates - just like it did for Arsenal and Atletico.
But Simeone's troops still have the Champions League final to come. That's quite a big but. in any language.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

POOR OLD TEKO! The full-list of PSL nominations: expect Mamelodi Sundowns to dominate (and why no Golden Boot should be awarded)

Award-winning performance: Pitso Mosimane and Teko Modise
Poor old Teko Modise. After all those years of missing out on his PSL Championship medal the man who inspired Mamelodi Sundowns’ miraculous title triumph this summer finds himself left off the short-list for the PSL Footballer of the Season.

With six goals and three Man of the Match awards as Masandawana closed in and overtook faltering Kaizer Chiefs, “The General” finds himself over-looked with his captain, Dutchman Alje Schut, Wits University’s Sibusiso Vilakazi and AmaKhosi destroyer Willard Katsande the chosen three.

But he won’t mind too much. Modise has already won the award twice – when he was lighting up the midfield at Orlando Pirates in 2008 and 2009. But without him, clearly the nominations are flawed. Schut has had a great season, but he doesn’t sparkle or score visionary goals like Modise did to see off SuperSport and claim the title last Tuesday. Morgan Gould was the last defender to win it - with champions SuperSport United in 2010 - so there IS a precedent for Schut.

And though “Assault and Vinegar” Katsande has made even more crunching tackles than he’s had yellow cards, Vilakazi – with a Nedbank Cup final to come – has to be the favourite now. With eight goals from midfield, Gavin Hunt has been singing his praises all season.

2012-13         Itumeleng Khune                  Kaizer Chiefs            GK       South Africa
2011-12         Siyabonga Nomvethe            Moroka Swallows      FW      South Africa
2010-11         Thulani Serero                     Ajax Cape Town         MF       South Africa
2009-10         Morgan Gould                       Supersport United     DF       South Africa
2008-09         Teko Modise                         Orlando Pirates          MF       South Africa
2007-08         Teko Modise                         Orlando Pirates          MF       South Africa

Then there’s the Players’ Player of the Season. Teko gets the nod for this one, voted for by his peers, along with Vilakazi and Katsande. In the Premier League, Luis Suarez did the double with both top awards this season – I guess Teko will have to accept just one, though whether his fellow professionals agree, I can’t say. Both Vilakazi and Katsande have emerged as strong contenders, but I'd offer this to Modise... his lack of fortune in leaving SuperSport (before they won three PSLs on the trot) and Orlando Pirates (before they won the two trebles) says it HAS to be Teko!

2012-13         Itumeleng Khune      Kaizer Chiefs  GK       South Africa
2011-12         Siyabonga Nomvethe           Moroka Swallows      FW      South Africa
2010-11         Thulani Serero           Ajax Cape Town         MF       South Africa
2009-10         Katlego Mphela         Mamelodi Sundowns FW      South Africa
2008-09         Teko Modise   Orlando Pirates          MF       South Africa
2007-08         Itumeleng Khune      Kaizer Chiefs  GK       South Africa
2006-07         Godfrey Sapula          Mamelodi Sundowns MF       South Africa
2005-06         Surprise Moriri           Mamelodi Sundowns MF       South Africa
2004-05         Sandile Ndlovu          Dynamos        FW      South Africa
2003-04         Tinashe Nengomasha           Kaizer Chiefs  MF       Zimbabwe
2002-03         Moeneeb Josephs     Ajax Cape Town         GK       South Africa
2001-02         Jabu Pule       Kaizer Chiefs  MF       South Africa
2000-01         Benjani Mwaruwari   Jomo Cosmos            FW      Zimbabwe
1999-00         Siyabonga Nomvethe           Kaizer Chiefs  FW      South Africa
1998-99         Roger Feutmba    Mamelodi Sundowns MF       Cameroon
1997-98         Raphael Chukwu       Mamelodi Sundowns FW      Nigeria
1996-97         Wilfred Mugeyi          Bush Bucks    FW      Zimbabwe

The Coach of the Season award sees Pitso Mosimane, Clive Barker and Stuart Baxter nominated. Clearly, Pitso’s title triumph will be the dominating factor. Sure, he’s backed by the billions of Patrice Motsepe, but Dutch master Johan Neeskens and Bristling Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov both failed to hit the top before him as Masandawana endured their seven-year drought.

Quite why Baxter, a double loser this season, gets the nod ahead of Allan Freese and Roger de Sa, I’m not sure.

Without a contract, Freese took unfashionable Platinum Stars to the MTN8 and TelkomKO finals - and won them both in his first season in charge.

De Sa took Pirates to the African Champions League final – not to mention the last hurdle of the MTN8 and TelkomKO – before decamping to Ajax. Old Dog Barker has achieved miracles at promoted Mpumalanga Black Aces after a record 35 signings this season, but the 69-year-old knows Pitso is more deserving this season.

Still, Pitso MUST win it, no matter who else is nominated.

Keagan Dolly has to be Young Player of the Season – called up (and mysteriously dropped) by Bafana Bafana, he has attracted rave reviews all season at Ajax Cape Town.

Respect is due to Hlompho Kekana, his rasper for Sundowns against Pirates in February will surely earn Goal of the Season, while last year’s all-conquering Itumeleng Khune is nominated for Goalkeeper of the Season, which could also go to Wits’ former Pirate Moeneeb Josephs. Slim Kat's penalty-saving heroics saw his side to the Nedbank Cup final, and surely Khune - injured and far from perfect this season - has won enough?

The Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot as PSL top-scorer looks destined for Bernard Parker, with a modest 10 goals. But given that he hasn’t scored – even from the spot – since February, perhaps it should be melted down and handed out again next season to a more deserving candidate.

The table below lists all top scorers, with the current 30-game format adopted in 2002. Barring miracles, Parker's tally will the the LOWEST EVER in the PSL.


1996–97              Wilfred Mugeyi                22           Bush Bucks         
1997–98              Daniel Mudau                  24           Sundowns           
1998–99              Pollen Ndlanya                 21           Orlando Pirates 
1999–00              Dennis Lota                      18           Orlando Pirates  
2000–01              Gilbert Mushangazhike      19           Manning Rangers           
2001–02              Ishmael Maluleke              18           Manning Rangers           
2002–03              Lesley Manyathela            18           Orlando Pirates 
2003–04              Jackie Ledwaba                14           Zulu Royals        
2004–05              Collins Mbesuma               25           Kaizer Chiefs      
2005–06              Mame Niang                     14           Swallows             
2006–07              Chris Katongo                   15           Jomo Cosmos     
2007–08              James Chamanga               14           Swallows            
2008–09              Richard Henyekane           19           Golden Arrows   
2009–10              Katlego Mphela                17           Sundowns           
2010–11              Knowledge Musona          15           Kaizer Chiefs      
2011–12              Siyabonga Nomvethe        20           Moroka Swallows            
2012–13              Katlego Mashego             13          Moroka Swallows
2013-14              Bernard Parker                 10          Kaizer Chiefs             

The full list of 2014 nominations:

PSL Footballer of the Season

Alje Schut
Sibusiso Vilakazi
Willard Katsande

PSL Players' Player of the Season

Sibusiso Vilakazi
Teko Modise
Willard Katsande

PSL Young Player of the Season

Abbubaker Mobara
Gabadinho Mhango
Keagan Dolly

PSL Goalkeeper of the Season

Annsi Jaakkola
Itumeleng Khune
Moeneeb Josephs

PSL Goal of the Season

Hlompho Kekana
Knowledge Musona
Puleng Tlolane

PSL Coach of the Season

Clive Barker
Pitso Mosimane
Stuart Baxter

MTN8 Last Man Standing

Lennox Bacela
Robert Ng'ambi
Vuyo Mere

Telkom Knockout Player of the Tournament

Lennox Bacela
Mogakolodi Ngele
Robert Ng'ambi

Nedbank Cup Player of the Tournament

Jabulani Shongwe
Oupa Manyisa
Sibusiso Vilakazi

Nedbank Cup Most Promising Player of the Tournament

Kwanda Mngonyama
Thabo Moloi
Vincent Pule

South Africa's Election 2014: Where casting your vote really means something

We've come a long way: South Africa, 1957
WARNING: This was written before dumped ballots were found in four separate locations in Gauteng.

NO nation on earth loves an election more than South Africa. Understandable really, give the way things were in this country before 1994.

The gathering at Irene Primary School on Election Day 2014 was considerable. My local polling booth coped admirably with a substantial queue of about 400 at 8.30am yesterday morning. The atmosphere was good.

Centurion is no Bekkersdal. Like Sandton is to Johannesburg, Centurion is the up-market satellite town for Tshwane/Pretoria - you're unlikely to find many fiery revolutionaries on the golf estates and office parks.

But still, long queues. Simply to write X on a piece of paper. This was a first. I left South Africa in 1985, so like the "born-frees" in their 20th year, I was a first-time voter in the Rainbow Nation. But I made my X frequently during my self-imposed 25-year exile in the United Kingdom, where I was a parish councillor, the only non-Conservative in my village.

But it's nothing like here. I suspect there's nowhere quite like South Africa to cast your vote. A feeling of achievement, involvement. Obvious, given the vast majority were denied that right under Apartheid.

I posted the picture above in an attempt to shake the born-frees of every color out of their comfort zone. It was retweet over 200 times last time I checked. That's the kind of day it was yesterday. A time to remember what has gone before, a time to choose what goes on in future.

Voting started late in many areas, booths were forced to stay open after 9pm in others as the queues grew. Many nations would LOVE to have people turn up in such numbers, with such enthusiasm.

Shake on it: trouble-spot Bekkersdal yesterday
Perhaps it's time to highlight why South Africa's vibrant young democracy stands out from the rest. I've tried to list the main differences HERE:

1: People will travel vast distances to vote. Many workers spent much of Tuesday travelling home to their local villages to make sure X marked the spot. It's almost biblical, this rush back to the old rural home. Not sure of it happening anywhere else in the world in such numbers.

2: The police in evidence yesterday weren't aggressive, surly, "jobs-worths" as we call them in the UK. At my polling station, they moved along the line, encouraging, advising - pointing out that nearby stations were queue-free and available. The same can be said for the IEC officials. Patient, understanding.

3: A real respect for the institution pervaded the day. Nobody took a look at the queues and shrugged, walking away. Every color and class had their duty to do. Speaking to everyone from waiters and car guards to business executives, the message was the same and the indelible mark was on the thumb.

Worrying: dumped ballot papers (all in favour of DA) found in Pretoria
Not everyone will have experienced the same, I guess. But that's how it felt yesterday… a nation happy to get out there and do their thing. Me? I went for the Economic Freedom Fighters nationally, I've met Julius Malema, bit Orlando Pirates fan, liked him. Provincially, I went for Musi Maimane, seems a good sort.

As I write, the results are much as we expected them to be. Agang, pummeled in the polls after Mamphela Ramphela's public fall-out with Helen Zille's DA, claim to have discovered subterfuge (the picture below shows her confrontation). Others - including opposition leader Zille - complained about disorganization and she was not alone.

Whaaaat?! Mamphela Ramphela yesterday
But generally the IEC seems to have done the job - until four separate cases of dumped ballot boxes cropped up in Diepsloot, Alexandra and Lynwood, east of Tshwane last night.

It won't stop the train. The ANC will romp in, though the weight of President Jacob Zuma's lack of leadership will be felt. The DA will finish a distant second, strengthened but still not perceived as a party for the future in a South Africa unlikely to return to a white president any time soon.

And Julius Malema's EFF got their slice of the pie, enough to poke the self-satisfied but historically immovable African National Congress in to some kind of anti-corruption process that will probably see Zuma sidelined in the not-too-distant future.

Ultimately, South Africa's Election Day 2014 offers exactly what it should: A shining example of how democracy SHOULD work, with 29 parties on offer for all shades of political opinion. Blimey, Julius and his EFF even got FOUR votes in Oranje, the Afrikaner enclave!

BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The job is done: Pitso Mosimane and Mamelodi Sundowns romp to the PSL title with a game to spare

Celebration time: Sundowns fans invade Loftus last night
IT'S done. And with plenty of Pitso panache.

For 45 minutes last night, Mamelodi Sundowns' championship charge looked like being a drab funeral march.

In the end, with coach Pitso Mosimane telling his men "nobody can stop us scoring goals" it had turned in to a rousing 3-0 triumph and another wwwwwwwwwwin in a triumphant streak nobody else could match.

After a post-match pitch invasion, coach Mosimane emerged to say: "It's amazing. I came here to help Masandawana avoid relegation... and now we are champions."

After a flat first half, we didn't have to wait long for the first Surprise - yes, that man Moriri getting the opener against hapless SuperSport United to begin the landslide in front of a huge crowd, enjoying free entrance to Loftus Versfeld for wearing KaboYellow.

Then came the fairy-tale moment. Teko Modise, the man who just missed out on the trebles at SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates, produced a visionary 35-yard effort to catch Ronwen Williams off his line. A cracking way to break the title jinx and install himself as firm favourite for the Player of the Season accolades after a third successive Man of the Match performance.

Afterwards Modise said: "We said at half-time we had to play another way. I'm glad to repay Pitso's faith in me. I've always been involved with him. He's very emotional. He's never won the PSL either. I lost for words... I'm just so happy."

Pitso Mosimane, now the first black South African coach to win the PSL, did a Jose Mourinho style run up the touchline in response to Teko's magic strike. The Tshwane fans finally had something to shout about. And all was well in a PSL world which had seen just one first-half goal in SEVEN GAMES.

At 2-0, it was all over. But Cuthbert Malajila capped it all with a third and despite Kaizer Chiefs beating AmaTuks 1-0 - a Killer Mphela penalty decided it - the seven-year wait for a Masandawana title was DONE.

Mosimane added: "Patrice Motsepe called me when we had drawn two games and we were 11 points behind Chiefs. He said I must relax. But I always said we would win this. Now I must call Roger de Sa and ask him how he got to the African Champions League final."

The AmaKhosi cannot begrudge Sundowns this title. Stuart Baxter's men had it all wrapped up amid a nine-match unbeaten run barely two months ago but they tailed off badly, just as they did last season when they hung on to win it from Platinum Stars.

Elsewhere, amid that second-half goal-rush, Golden Arrows finally fell through the relegation trap-door when they lost 1-0 at KwaZulu Natal rivals AmaZulu and Gavin Hunt's Bidvest Wits could only manage a goalless draw.

With their kick-off delayed 15 minutes to allow their yellow-clad fans free entrance, Sundowns finished their title triumph in glorious isolation.

Mind the gap: How it looked
Not since Screamer Tshabalala did it with Sundowns in the 1980s has the South African championship been won by an African coach. Pitso has talked of sweating blood, eating grass and shedding tears this season, and I for one loved every minute.

He has his critics after a difficult spell in charge of the national team but in truth his results with Bafana Bafana easily match incumbent Gordon Igesund's efforts.

For Mosimane and his billionaire owner Patrice Motsepe, the job is done. Dutch legend Johan Neeskens and a host of foreigners just couldn't get Chloorkop together. Pitso did. In style, with a game to play he has already broken the points record for a 30-game season.

A crowd invasion delayed the post-match interviews but who cane blame the long-suffering Tshwane fans after three years of Soweto dominance?

With 64 points already on the board, Pitso grinned: "Our last game against Maritzburg United on Saturday will be just another league game. Training like normal. We want to add to that record!"

BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice.


2002-2003: Orlando Pirates 61, Supersport United 55

2003-2004: Kaizer Chiefs 63 (highest), Ajax Cape Town 57

2004-2005: Kaizer Chiefs 62, Orlando Pirates 60

2005-2006: Mamelodi Sundowns 57, Orlando Pirates 54

2006-2007: Mamelodi Sundowns 61, Silver Stars 51

2007-2008: SuperSport United 54 (lowest), Ajax Cape Town 52

2008-2009: SuperSport United 55, Orlando Pirates 55

2009-2010: SuperSport United 57, Mamelodi Sundowns 56

2010-2011: Orlando Pirates 60, Ajax Cape Town 60

2011-2012: Orlando Pirates 58, Moroka Swallows 56

2012-2013: Kaizer Chiefs 57, Platinum Stars 56

Monday, 5 May 2014

CHAMPIONS DETHRONED: Did a simple lack of Knowledge bring down Kaizer Chiefs?

Double trouble: Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter

looked unbeatable two months ago
Kaizer Chiefs fans, you are not alone. Just like the reigning champions in Spain and England, South Africa’s mighty AmaKhosi are left asking: “Where did it all go wrong?”

Uniquely, while FC Barcelona and Manchester United can blame the loss of their crowns on managerial changes, Kaizer Chiefs retained Stuart Baxter – the first foreign coach ever to win South Africa’s domestic championship in his first season – but still failed to reach the double-winning heights of last season.

Like Barca without Pep (and the late Tito) or United without Fergie, Kaizer Chiefs have finished out of the running (barring miracles), ending a potless season scratching their heads while their rivals compete for Champions League and domestic trophies.

Ironically, for the latter part of Saturday’s morale-busting penalty shoot-out defeat in the Nedbank Cup semi-final at Wits University, we actually saw a little of the old Chiefs panache.

Gavin Hunt’s men were outplayed for most of the extra-time period, before Moeneeb Josephs superb opening save in the shoot-out sent them surging through on penalties.

And just to really rub salt in the wounds, Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates then saw off Steve Komphela’s unfashionable Maritzburg United 2-1 to reach their FOURTH final of the season on May 17 at the mighty Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

DERAILED: The Chiefs express is in trouble

Suddenly, after a season which has seen the vast AmaKhosi clan laughing at the Buccaneers as they switched coaches and struggled to win their games in hand, it’s Pirates who look like the more successful club this season. Four finals is a record not to be sniffed out. The MTN8, Telkom KO and African Champions League bring rich rewards despite last-hurdle defeats … and even if they lose all four and go down to Wits in the Nedbank final, rather four cup finals than NONE.

All of which leaves Stuart Baxter – and the Motaung family – pulling their collective hair out. Two months ago, Chiefs were nailed on for the PSL title, unbeaten from November 5 and NEVER beaten at home under their Wolverhampton-born boss.

And now we come to the crucial question: Where did it all go wrong? Was it that first ever home defeat against Allan Freese’s Platinum Stars, who have barely won a game since?

Or how about the trip to DR Congo when, without television coverage or a single South African football reporter to witness it, they went down 3-0 to AS Vita as the Champions League train was firmly derailed?

Or perhaps it was Bernard Parker’s ankle. He’s played with strapping since early in the year – but the PSL’s top goal-scorer (with a measly 10) has failed to add to his tally since February despite starting throughout the run-in.

But no, in essence, it was none of these things. The real damage was done by the injury to another ankle. When Knowledge Musona began to struggle, so did Chiefs. Musona, still haggling with Bundesliga club Hoffenheim over his loan deal at Naturena, scored the Champions League hat-trick in Mozambique, he produced the goals which kept the four-month unbeaten streak going, and in truth (with 15 goals in all competitions) he was always the Chiefs spearhead.

And just as we joked about “Knowledge is power” and “a little bit of Knowledge is a dangerous thing” so we found that, without Knowledge Chiefs couldn’t overcome the Clever Boys when it mattered.

Baxter tried manfully to manage the grinding disappointment of semi-final failure. He said: “Penalties it is what it is; it is a very, very fine line. I must just say congratulations to Gavin Hunt and his boys and I wish them all the best in the final.”

But he was unable to summon the tears which accompanied Pitso Mosimane’s post-match display when champions-elect crashed out of the Nedbank Cup.

He tried to explain the pressure, the drain of the African Champions League: “We have done what we can in very trying circumstances and no-one has complained. We’ve gone on with it. I don’t know if anyone reflects on it, but those last 15 minutes today were more than I could have asked for.

“And going to extra-time is not what you want. If anybody says these players have let anybody down, they don't know anything about football.”

It’s strong stuff that, from a man who questioned his role at a club where the fans were booing Kingston Nkhatha even when Chiefs were top of the League.

Of course, things could yet turn around for Kaizer Chiefs (and Barcelona) with SuperSport United coach Cavin Johnson insisting his side will give their all against Masandawana tomorrow night. But it's highly unlikely.

Predictably, in the darker realms of the social networks, there are those calling for “Baxter out” just as Manchester United and Barcelona supporters reacted to their disappointments this season.

But that would be a mistake. Baxter can recover from this slump, this shocking failure (barring a miracle) to defend the trophies he won last year. But to do that, he’ll need a little bit more Knowledge.

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