“This is the final lap,” says Siphiwe ‘Shabba’ Tshabalala about Kaizer Chiefs’ last game this season against Baroka FC on Saturday.
“It’s all about those 90 minutes. Of course, the coach will do the line-up and discuss the tactics with the team, but thereafter it’s up to the players to do the job. Everyone has a role to play, including the guys who won’t start. My advice to the players: ‘Go out and enjoy’.”
Amakhosi have an opportunity to take the Absa Premiership title on Saturday. Tshabalala was part of the Chiefs side that won the league title in 2013 and 2015, which was the last time the trophy was taken by the Glamour Boys.
“It’s a big year for Kaizer Chiefs,” the former attacking midfielder adds, “as it’s the club’s 50th anniversary year. It is, however, crucial that the player don’t get uptight.
“Senior players like Itumeleng Khune, Mulomowandau Mathoho, Willard Katsande and Bernard Parker have been in this situation, they have won the league. I am sure that they will talk with the younger guys and share their experience.
“They will also tell their teammates, ‘forget about social media for now, let’s focus on what needs to be done on Saturday’.”
‘Shabba’ was happy with Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Chippa United. “We grinded out a result and that’s all that counts at the moment.”
Thanks to the victory, Chiefs are now on 56 points from 29 matches. Nearest rivals Mamelodi Sundowns have the same number of points, although Amakhosi have a better goal difference, +21 versus +18.
The Brazilians beat Black Leopards 3-0 on Wednesday.
Baroka were hammered 4-1 by SuperSport United, although they did beat Sundowns 1-0 in the game before that. They are down in 16th position on the league table with 28 points.
“Our guys must dig deep as a team, that’s so important to get a result,” Tshabalala says about the Baroka encounter.
Khama Billiat scored the sole goal to help Chiefs go past Chippa. The Zimbabwean slotted the ball home from close range after a cross by Mathoho was headed on by Samir Nurković.
The Serbian has been in tremendous form this season, having not only found the back of the net 13 times, but he also provided six assists for others to score.
Tshabalala likes to single out Reeve Frosler as “my favourite player. He’s versatile, has that ability to come inside from the left and, when in possession of the ball, you know that things will happen. He has been outstanding in recent times.
“It was great to see Khama score. People have been hard on him and he got a lot of stick, but by scoring that goal, he sent out the message, ‘I am still Khama Billiat, I can still do it’.”
Daniel Akpeyi had to miss the Chippa game due to a concussion suffered in the previous fixture. In came Itumeleng Khune.
“It’s not easy to suddenly come in if you haven’t been playing for a while,” remarks Tshabalala, “but he showed his leadership. That’s when experience comes to the fore… Itu may perhaps not have been 100% match fit, but he made a difference thanks to his experience and leadership.”
On Saturday’s fixture against Baroka, Shabba comments, “they are fighting for survival in the premiership, while we are fighting for league honours.”
The Amakhosi legend makes it clear that he will be at home, sitting in front of the television come kick-off time on Saturday.
“I am actually more nervous watching a game, than when I was playing,” he confesses. “I sometimes want to use the remote to control certain things in the match, although it doesn’t really help…”
He laughs after saying that.
Then, Tshabalala adds, “Good luck to the boys and, enjoy the moment. It’s an opportunity to write their own history.”
Chiefs will face Baroka at Bidvest Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Kick-off will be at 15:30.
No spectators will be allowed in the stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the DStv channel SuperSport 2 and SABC 1, with commentary coming through the Twitter handle, @KaizerChiefs and various SABC radio stations.