How Niemach heroics kickstarted Chiefs treble run

Exactly two decades ago, Kaizer Chiefs began a run that would see them win three trophies within the space of four months in 2001.

Kenny Niemach played a crucial role in Chiefs winning the first of their memorable treble on the 1st September 2001, when they defeated his former team Mamelodi Sundowns in the BP Top8 final.

It was a thrilling game eventually decided on penalties, and the former Chiefs hit man journeyed down memory lane and let in on some of the secrets – and the amazing unity – which helped Chiefs outdo their opponents during the tournament.

Niemach teamed up with Chiefs just a day before the BP Top8 semi-final against Orlando Pirates on 25 August 2001, after Amakhosi had dispatched of Ria Stars in the quarter-final.

it was Chiefs’ masterclass in the transfer market, and their shock signing of the dreadlocked assassin, that would turn the semi-final against their old foes.

“I was looking for a change. I was getting into my twilight years. I wanted to go back to Durban,” reminisced Niemach this week, before adding “I was heading to Durban and got a call to say that Chiefs were interested. I went and signed with Manning Rangers and spent two weeks training with them, but I flew up to Johannesburg on the Thursday and signed with Chiefs on Friday. I had one training session with Chiefs and was not at my fittest.”

While he may not have been at his physical peak, it was to be Niemach’s day against Pirates as he reveled in the occasion of playing in a big Soweto derby semi-final against Pirates.

“The FNB Stadium was packed with over 100 000 that day. I could not hear the next guy within a meter of me. The atmosphere was absolutely electric,” says Niemach.

He recalls with goosebumps the moment he was introduced to the Chiefs fans.

“The stadium announcer said aloud ‘surprise, surprise’ and then I came. It was a wonderful experience. Chiefs are dynamic in player appreciation and introducing players to fans,” Niemach says of that unforgettable moment.

Niemach’s afternoon in the FNB sun was to get even better as he scored the game’s only goal to send Chiefs to the final, his goal coming in the 34th minute.

Before the game, he recalled the anxiety of the team’s coach Muhsin Ertugral to turn what was a formidable team into a winning unit.

“The team was going through a transition. When I came in, Muhsin Ertugral said he wanted to win, as he had worked on this team for so long.  And that’s what happened. I went and scored after that fabulous Arthur Zwane cross. I had to do justice to it and give it what it deserved,” Niemach says of the moment of his irresistible winner.

With Niemach the hero of the semi-final, Chiefs then headed into the final against his former team Sundowns.

For Niemach, it was Chiefs’ blend of precocious and exciting youth and experience that saw them through against the Brazilians.

“Every time you get to a cup final against Sundowns you know it’s going to be hard. We were fortunate that we had a break-through of the likes of players such as Jabu Pule, Stanton Fredericks and Gary Goldstone, who was young at the time but experienced. Brian Baloyi was at the peak of his powers and Muhsin Ertugral was experiencing his richest vein at Kaizer Chiefs,” says Niemach.

The striker feels the formula for defeating Sundowns was a simple one.

“We won the game simply because the coach got the group dynamic right and each player understood his role and understood that this will work not individually, but collectively. The football we played then, and the tactical nous, is only being developed now. The system we played 20 years ago, some teams are only playing now,” says Niemach.

He paid tribute to his Amakhosi teammates from two decades ago.

“The team spirit was amazing. There was a togetherness and an understanding that we play for each other. There was a nice camaraderie in the team. That team went on to be successful for a period, because they were not divided. That’s why I think that team was successful, I felt as though I was the big brother in the team,” recalls Niemach fondly.

Niemach also helped Chiefs in their run to their 2001 Coca Cola Cup triumph that season, when they defeated Jomo Cosmos in the final. He was not registered to feature in the 2001 CAF Cup Winners Cup competition, as he joined Amakhosi after the registration period. He left Chiefs at the end of the 2002/2003 campaign, after a short but extremely memorable spell in black and gold.