It took just one touch from Keagan Dolly in a Kaizer Chiefs shirt in a competitive match, to show his obvious breathtaking quality.
Coming onto the pitch for Amakhosi in the second half, with his team trailing against Mamelodi Sundowns in the MTN8 quarterfinal, Dolly changed the complexion of the game with his first involvement in the game, laying on a sumptuous through ball for Khama Billiat.
It was an inch perfect pass and Billiat applied the equally exquisite finish with aplomb into the top corner to draw Amakhosi level and ensure they finished the 90 minutes in the ascendancy against the duo’s former club.
Amakhosi have been missing that ‘X factor’ and that genuine midfield playmaker’s pass for a while now, and the goal and its execution would have delighted Chiefs fans.
It was an encouraging start to Dolly’s Chiefs career, coming as he acknowledges he is still making his way to full fitness after the end of his four-year spell at French club, Montpellier.
“Everyone knows I got here a little bit unfit. I haven’t been on the same standard as the rest of the team. They’ve been playing in the CAF Champions League. They’ve been active and for me it was a bit difficult because I was out for three months and now trying to get back. But once I got to Kaizer Chiefs, from the first day, from the first training session with the guys, I felt at home. That motivated me to get onto the same page as everyone else as soon as possible,” says Dolly.
“I could see how the team is evolving and I wanted to be part of the process. I think missing out on the Carling Cup – and seeing how well the team performed and how the guys played – made me want to join the team. I kept on working hard with the fitness trainers, kept on working hard on my own, and I got my opportunity against Sundowns.”
The result might have gone against them, with the lottery of penalties, but a further sign of Dolly’s confidence was the manner in which he dispatched what was ultimately the only spot kick the Amakhosi converted.
“We showed character and showed what we are capable of (against Sundowns). A lot of people saw that we are quite serious this season and we want to compete and win things. I think with the performance, coming down from two nil down against a good team like Sundowns, shows we mean business,” says an upbeat and excited Dolly.
He’s an experienced, well-traveled international now, but as he made his Amakhosi debut he admits the butterflies of nervous excitement were rumbling as he took the field.
“When the coach told me I was going on, I was a bit nervous. Coming back home after four and a half years in France and playing against your previous club. In my head I didn’t want to try and do too much. Like I said, my body is not where it wants to be, where it needs to be. But I told myself I understand the players, I’ve been training with them for the past two weeks. They made me feel at home. They made it easy for me to come into the team, even though I’m not yet at the level I want to be. The coach explained to me there’s no pressure. Luckily when I got in and I got the ball, Khama made a run and that made it easier for me to settle into the game,’ Dolly says modestly of his goal contribution.
He believes the objectives and goals set out by everyone at Chiefs excites him and is something “I want to be part of”.
“You can see where the team is going and how hard we are working to achieve that. We are not focused on anybody else, or on the last game of the season, whether we win the league or not. We’re focusing on being better players, being a better team and taking everyone forward. We just have to take each game as it comes and stick to the process and that will deliver the end product for us,” says Dolly.
He is a more calm, level-headed individual on and off the pitch these days, and is looking forward to playing a nurturing role to young Chiefs players like Njabulo Blom, Sabelo Radebe, Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and Happy Mashiane.
For now, TS Galaxy await in the DStv Premiership opener this weekend, and Dolly will be hoping for another taste of the Chiefs jersey on the pitch.
“TS Galaxy is a team we know that works hard, that runs a lot. In the PSL there’s no small team or bad team. For us it’s about focusing on ourselves and on what we’re good at. If we just do a little bit more than what we did against Sundowns, we stand a good chance this season,” concludes Dolly.