Happy 49th birth­day, Chiefs!

Soccer Laduma - - Siyag Bhoza - Cheers, VeeJay

Com­pli­ments of the new year to our won­der­ful read­ers and I hope you all had a great fes­tive sea­son and are rar­ing to go to re­alise your dreams and wishes for 2019. Re­mem­ber, to change your 2018 it will take more than just the turn of the new year. The change has to come from within oth­er­wise it will be the same old story. It is said that Ben­jamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan you’re plan­ning to fail.” So, un­less you make a change, your 2019 will be just as good, if not bad, as your 2018.

We’ve been treated to some scin­til­lat­ing and ex­cit­ing foot­ball in the first round of the fix­tures of the new year and it looks like we are in for a great sec­ond round of the sea­son. While there’s so much to talk about since the last edi­tion of Soc­cer Lad­uma, one can’t over­look the fact that ar­guably the big­gest team in the coun­try, Kaizer Chiefs cel­e­brated their 49th birth­day on Mon­day, Jan­uary 7. What that means is that on Jan­uary 7, 2020, Kaizer Mo­taung’s brain­child will be turn­ing half-a-cen­tury old and that’s a re­mark­able achieve­ment for the for­mer left-footed striker, nick­named “Chin­cha Gu­luva”.

When Or­lando Pi­rates de­cided to ex­pel the likes of Ew­ert Nene and a num­ber of play­ers from their ranks in 1969, no one could have pre­dicted what would come of that de­ci­sion. His­tory has it that the de­ci­sion caused a lot of un­cer­tainty and the last thing on the ex­pelled play­ers’ minds was to form a new club, break­ing away from the Buc­ca­neers, for fear and doubts of what could hap­pen and how ev­ery­one would take the de­ci­sion. With the fear and con­ster­na­tion abound, I hear that Kaizer Mo­taung’s late fa­ther, Cy­land, was among those who fully sup­ported and en­cour­aged the de­ci­sion to form a new club that went on to shake the foun­da­tions of South African foot­ball. Since then, South African foot­ball’s land­scape has never been the same.

There are so many other leg­endary fig­ures that played a sig­nif­i­cant role in what has be­come an in­sti­tu­tion and one of the big­gest brands in the world. Peo­ple like Nene, Banks Setl­hodi, China Manna and so many oth­ers sac­ri­ficed a lot and contributed im­mensely to what has be­come Kaizer Chiefs to­day. Their con­tri­bu­tion is sadly un­der­em­pha­sised and the new gen­er­a­tion of the team’s sup­port­ers hardly knows any­thing about these leg­endary fig­ures that sowed the seeds that pro­duced the fruits they see to­day, but that’s a story for an­other day.

In cel­e­bra­tion of this gi­ant club’s 49th birth­day, while I only be­came aware of them in their sec­ond decade, I must ad­mit that they’ve done a lot for South African foot­ball. The num­ber of top qual­ity play­ers they’ve pro­duced over the years, the num­ber of lives they’ve changed, the joy and hap­pi­ness they’ve brought to the mil­lions of their sup­port­ers, the in­ter­est they’ve drawn from ev­ery­one – in­clud­ing bit­ter ri­vals – the level of com­pe­ti­tion, their im­pact in the local game and the league, the plat­form they’ve pro­vided to so many tal­ented young­sters from poor back­grounds, the job op­por­tu­ni­ties they’ve cre­ated over the years and, more im­por­tantly, the love and peace they’ve brought to South Africa and the role they’ve played in unit­ing this coun­try is noth­ing even the great Kaizer Mo­taung would’ve had in mind when they formed this team. Their im­pact con­tin­ues to be felt through­out. It is the for­ma­tion of this club that saw the orig­i­nal Soweto Derby be­tween Or­lando Pi­rates and Moroka Swal­lows be­come a thing of the past.

Chiefs dom­i­nated on and off the field, their mar­ket­ing team, their Pub­lic Re­la­tions team, their tech­ni­cal team, play­ers, sup­port­ers and ev­ery­one as­so­ci­ated with the club were al­ways a step ahead of the rest. What can’t be de­nied is the fact that gone are those days, sadly! The team has dropped the ball big time in the last decade or so. Their dom­i­nance has be­come spo­radic and that could be sub­se­quent to ei­ther the other teams catch­ing up with them or Amakhosi hav­ing reached the ceil­ing and not be­ing able to grow any fur­ther, which would be a sad in­dict­ment.

Not ev­ery player could wear that fa­mous Gold and Black jersey; in fact, many play­ers had shiv­ers down their spines and be­came so ner­vous wear­ing that jersey that they had to be shipped away, only to show their true po­ten­tial else­where. Such was the hon­our and priv­i­lege of wear­ing the Chiefs jersey. Fast for­ward to to­day, there have been a num­ber of sur­pris­ing sign­ings by the team and play­ers that would be deemed sur­plus to re­quire­ments at less- pres­sured teams but deemed good enough to sign for the Na­turena-based club. How of­ten do you hear the term “Glam­our Boys” used to call Chiefs these days? Not of­ten. Why? Sim­ply be­cause there’s not been much glam­our as­so­ci­ated with Amakhosi in re­cent years! The scout­ing sys­tem has been pa­thetic, the club’s iden­tity lost, the club’s tro­phy cab­i­net empty, any­one can now wear the club’s fa­mous jersey, most play­ers have no nick­names, play­ing for Chiefs has be­come just an­other Absa Pre­mier­ship con­tract. This goes against every­thing this sleep­ing gi­ant stands for and the sooner ev­ery­one pulls up their socks to get the team back to where it be­longs, the bet­ter for ev­ery­one. The re­cent sup­port­ers’ vi­o­lent be­hav­iour at Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium was just an in­di­ca­tion of the level of frus­tra­tion the sup­port­ers have reached and, for the sake of South African foot­ball, I wish Chin­cha will get his team back to greater heights. The club’s 50th birth­day an­niver­sary has to be a year to re­mem­ber! That’s non-ne­go­tiable and prepa­ra­tions should start right now to en­sure that hap­pens. Happy 49th birth­day, Amakhosi!

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