A SEASON WORTH CELEBRATING
I cannot fashion many words to describe how best the 2012/13 was, except to once more appreciate divine favour that simply fell on us. Looking back at the many instances that made this season more memorable, I am awed by the manner in which we pursued and executed our objectives to the latter; a character that has defined the nature of our history of success since inception.
At the beginning of each season, we gather in our review and strategic planning workshops to map, plan and strategize our way forward in a process that ultimately determine our goals that are anchored by a specific theme.
This time around we expressed a wish to win the league and claim at least some of the cup competitions on offer. We also set to reach out to our supporters through activities that consolidated their presence and pulling power.
We subsequently embraced “Reclaiming the Glory” as an overarching theme for the 2012/13 season. Ensuing debates gave us more heartache with management arguing that the theme may pose a huge pressure on the Technical Team and the players at large. The Marketing and Supporters Departments on the other hand insisted that the theme carried a prophetic message that had credence to naturally motivate not only the team but the entire Kaizer Chiefs family that included supporters, business partners and officials.
With the theme ringing in our heads, we embarked on a serious challenge to first preview our Technical Team, and ultimately enlisted the services of Stuart Baxter as Head Coach and Doctor Khumalo as his Assistant in a move intended to reinforce our goals. On the player’s side, we went flat for Eric Mathoho, Morgan Gould, Matthews Rusike, Siboniso Gaxa, Brilliant Khuzwayo, Kingston Nkatha, Khotso Moleko, and Siyabonga Nkosi to add muscle into our arsenal. With injuries plaguing some of them, our acquisitions worked hard to internalise the weight of the Kaizer Chiefs jersey as we followed by knuckling down to pursuing our goals.
Gearing for the season, we hibernated at the Potchefstroom Campus of the University of North West where players and their Technical Team wasted no time in getting into the business of reclaiming the glory.
Testing the waters, the team started well by annexing the pre-season Gauteng Challenge Trophy but somewhat took a dip by losing to Orlando Pirates in the Carling Cup. We went on to lose a chance in the MTN8 trophy to Mamelodi Sundowns via an unpalatable score line of four goals. Tables however turned when we redeemed ourselves with a six goal rout of AmaZulu in the opener of the league programme and went on to revenge our loss to Sundowns with a league victory that ignited a dramatic journey into the 2012/13 season.
Except for an exit from the Telkom Knockout, we went on to a nine match trot without a loss until Platinum Stars took advantage of their backyard to hand us our first defeat in the first round of the league programme. Talking about the exit, one will recall that we were hard-done by unfairness in the scheduling of our match since six of our players had featured for national duty prior our match. Essentially, our players returned a day before the fixture to afford the Technical Team any comfort of preparing for the gruelling match. By the time we engaged Wits, it was quite obvious that odds were heavily piled against us.
This was the only spoil spot in a round that we completed ensconced on top of the log following a consistent and objective-fuelled run.
With the second round taking course, a lot of analysts wondered if our consistency in the league challenge would sustain particularly after a lengthy recess of the 2013 ORANGE AFCON CUP. With the NEDBANK CUP also forming part of the excitement, we were certainly psychologically stretched to draw into our reserves as a formidable team that had by now impressed all soccer fundi and supporters with six matches on the trot without a loss in start the second round.
By this time, scoring a double against Bloemfontein Celtic in both the league and Nedbank Cup almost predicted our final moments in the entire season when we annexed both trophies to indeed claim our glory for real.
Whereas it would have been gratifying to end the season with an emphatic bang, the loss to Ajax Cape Town and University of Pretoria in our penultimate stages almost pulled the rug under our feet. However, lifting the NEDBANK Trophy against Supersport United after they had held us to a draw in our league match completed a season that can best be described as “the one that mattered most”. You will also recall that our victory in the NEDBANK CUP was hard-earned following some controversial decisions on yellow cards and unwarranted added minutes that simply emerged from nowhere. Be that as it was, we came through to eventually lift the trophy.
I am stating such considering that it had taken us eight years of waiting for the league trophy to celebrate in a manner that was reminiscent of our erstwhile years when success and glory naturally followed us every season. When all was said and done, we definitely ended on a high to confirm that our choice of “reclaiming the glory” as our theme was indeed prophetic.
We indeed reclaimed our glory as evidenced by Itumeleng Khunes’ clean sweep of the PSL Players Awards and Coach Stuart Baxter’s annexure of the Coach of the Season Awards.
Our recent Players Awards Ceremony also ended a season in a tradition that brought excitement and fulfilment to all of us. Whilst it is proper to congratulate all players that walked away with prizes, it is equally important to encourage the entire team to push for more glory in the future.
With two trophies in the bag, the real work of defending our gains and possibly attracting others remains the challenge in the incumbent season. As for now, all players and the Technical Team are on recess whilst our administrative machinery is at work to again preview and map the way forward.
On the Kaizer Chiefs Youth Development side, we are hard at work to re-engineer this critical unit of our establishment. Construction is on course and hopefully all ducks will soon march in a row to complete our plans.
Our Supporters Store will be opened to help us maintain our relations whilst we are looking into creative ways of engaging through a series of outreach programmes.
With all this in the background, I cannot help but thank everyone that played a role in helping us negotiate the rigours of this season particularly in a manner as satisfying as this one.
I would also like to wish our national team success in their remaining away matches. Recent reports and signs of unwelcoming reception point to the challenges that lie ahead as the route to Brazil becomes tedious. I believe we are professional and experienced enough to handle such unsettling pre-match treatment
I am mourning the passing of Percy Sibiya, a friend and compatriot who shared the Kaizer Chiefs moments of pain and success. He was a good businessman who assisted our supporters and helped us sound relations with many of them through provisioning accommodation during derbies and cup competitions.
Kaizer Motaung (Mr)