Khuzwayo backs ‘fa­ther’ Khom­pela

‘We also need to come to­gether to pro­tect him and show he isn’t alone in this.’

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT - NJABULO NGIDI

KAIZER Chiefs’ coach, Steve Kom­phela has stood alone in the fir­ing line fac­ing chants call­ing for his head, as well as the mis­siles thrown at him.

He prefers it like that, shield­ing the play­ers from the pres­sure so that they play with­out in­hi­bi­tions. Kom­phela ar­gues that he has a skin thick enough to han­dle any­thing thrown at him. That’s why he vowed he wouldn’t quit Amakhosi as the pres­sure mounts to a point that he needed a po­lice es­cort to leave Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium af­ter their last match, against Baroka FC last Satur­day.

Chiefs’ play­ers formed a pro­tec­tive guard be­tween their coach and the po­lice af­ter that match. Bril­liant Khuzwayo wants his team­mates to go a step fur­ther in de­fend­ing the coach who has con­stantly de­fended the play­ers by turn­ing things around with pos­i­tive re­sults.

“In a fam­ily there is a fa­ther, mother and the chil­dren,” Khuzwayo said. “The fa­ther is the head. Ev­ery mis­take that hap­pens at home, the fa­ther should stand up at all times and pro­tect the chil­dren. For him (Kom­phela), it is about pro­tect­ing us so that we can en­joy this God-given ta­lent that we have. But we also need to come to­gether to pro­tect him and show he isn’t alone in this. He can be our face and try to pro­tect us, but it is up to us as play­ers to turn things around. We should come to­gether as play­ers, talk about our chal­lenges, re­group and try to fight for this brand. This brand is too big (to be strug­gling like this).”

The 27-year-old goal­keeper has watched help­lessly as Amakhosi strug­gle, go­ing two sea­sons with­out a tro­phy. Itume­leng Khune is the club’s undis­puted No. 1, a role he per­forms with aplomb for both club and coun­try which means those who deputise for him have to watch from the side-lines. Khuzwayo has played just eight league matches since Kom­phela took over.

“How I look at it is that there is some­thing that I am do­ing to con­trib­ute to the team, even if I am not play­ing,” Khuzwayo said. “There is al­ways some­thing that I of­fer to the team. At train­ing here (at the Chiefs’ vil­lage in Na­turena), I am push­ing the one who is play­ing to do bet­ter. It’s not all about me. The team comes first. I take into con­sid­er­a­tion that this (the Chiefs’ badge) is more im­por­tant than me. If I fight for this (the badge) more than I fight for my­self, it will bring me joy even if I don’t get game time and re­gard­less of how the team is do­ing.”

Chiefs will look to bounce back from their de­feat to Baroka with a vic­tory over Bloem­fontein Celtic at Free State Sta­dium in a friendly in the Macufe Cup to­mor­row. Khuzwayo will get a rare start with Khune cap­tain­ing Bafana Bafana in a 2018 World Cup qual­i­fier against Burk­ina Faso this af­ter­noon at FNB Sta­dium.

De­spite hav­ing spent the last five years in Khune’s shadow, hold­ing his own when given a chance in his ab­sence, Khuzwayo has grown since leav­ing Dur­ban to join Amakhosi in Johannesburg. He has fea­tured in the se­nior na­tional team setup and even played in the 2015 Africa Cup of Na­tions co-hosted by Equa­to­rial Guinea and Gabon.

“I’ve grown as a brand, the Bril­liant Khuzwayo brand, since join­ing Chiefs,” he said. “I’ve grown as a per­son. When you play for such a big team, your pro­file grows. You get a lot of praises and you also ex­pe­ri­ence a lot of neg­a­tiv­ity (be­cause you are in the spot­light). So fac­ing that has helped me grow as a per­son. It’s been one hell of a ride for me, with good and bad ex­pe­ri­ences.”

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