Should Willard Katsande walk onto the Mohammed V Stadium pitch in Casablanca at 9pm on Saturday evening to face Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League final, he will walk into a special piece of Kaizer Chiefs history.
Katsande currently shares the record – with his Zimbabwean compatriot Tinashe Nengomasha – of foreign players who have represented the Amakhosi the most in official matches, with 325 appearances for the club.
Should the popular player known as ‘Salt and Vinegar’ take to the field for the final this weekend, he will hold the record outright.
Katsande beams as he hears the names of just some of the fantastic foreign players who have worn the Amakhosi jersey over the years, names like Ebson ‘Sugar’ Muguyo, William Shongwe, Robson Muchichwa, Knowledge Musona, Brazilian World Cup winner Jairzinho and Patrick Mabedi.
“It gives me butterflies to hear some of the names that represented this brand in such a positive way. And now I’m sitting here, sharing the same number of games with an idol of mine growing up, Tinashe Nengomasha. If I look back, I was a herd boy without a father, a mother without a job. It’s an achievement and a source of great pride being the foreign player who has played the most games for the Amakhosi. This is something that really means a lot to me,” says an emotional Katsande.
As he reflects on his journey, Katsande channels Nelson Mandela’s famous words that it always seems impossible, until it is done.
“As I am sitting here with 325 games, it seems easy now. But I look back at what this badge demands of you, when you are playing week in and week out, sometimes three games in seven days. When you play well today, knowing you can’t get ahead of yourself because fans will come for you for the next game. Every game you play for Kaizer Chiefs is like playing in a cup final. But I hope I can be an inspiration for young players who will play for the club in the future, who will learn about the club’s history and hear about names like mine and Tinashe,” says Katsande.
Every Kaizer Chiefs game may feel like a cup final, but this weekend Katsande and his teammates will play in the ultimate cup final, fighting for the chance to be African champions.
“Going into the cup final, we have been sharpening our swords and cooking up something very big. As a Kaizer Chiefs family, we believe in ourselves, in our philosophy and in what we are going to dish out on match day. We have worked very hard in camp. The technical team is doing everything to ensure they make our roles as simple as possible and that everyone knows what is expected of them. The unity within the team is very strong. We have always been tight, but now we are even closer and we are all singing the same song. You can feel the spirit, it is not normal. It is something very strong. We have been putting in the work and the guys are ready. We are going to be on another level of thinking when we take the plane to Morocco,” says Katsande.
He has been around Naturena long enough to know just how significant this moment is for the club.
“This club was formed in the 1970s, with the vision of being the best on the continent and to be recognized worldwide. Getting the star that comes with being African champions will change the look of the club’s logo. We are trying to achieve what the Chairman of this club wanted, for the club to represent Africa and sell Kaizer Chiefs to the world. It is something we really, really want. We have been trying for decades and here we are, in the final. Now that we are there, are we just going to say ‘wow, we have achieved. This is a big dream’. No, no, we are going there to put something on our jersey, something the fans of this club want.
This team is huge and is supported across the continent. We are asking those fans to shower the team with positivity. This is very important for the club and we will do all we possibly can to make you happy,” says Katsande.