“It is about the ongoing assessment of individual players, their performances and profiling. I have had time to go through the details of every individual player.”
“I’ve also had time to look at what worked so far this season and what we need to do differently going forward,” the Kaizer Chiefs coach continues. “I am using this information to make individual reports on each player. I am furthermore looking at what can be done differently, both as an individual player and as a team. It’s all about spending my time at home productively.
“Overall, I try to stay alert, as we can be called back to the training field at any time. It is therefore essential to stay on top and be ready.”
Covid-19 caught the world by surprise earlier this year. The pandemic has put almost everything on hold, including football.
“Back in November, nobody would have thought that we would be in the situation where we are now,” admits the German mentor. “Four months later, however, the unexpected happened and, worse, at present there are no readymade solutions for this virus.
“As a result, planet earth and the world of football have come to a halt. Hopefully, we will learn from what is happening and we will know in future better how to deal with similar disasters.”
About keeping his team active during this period, Middendorp reacts: “Over a number of weeks we have seen the importance of communication and staying connected. We have, for example, been using modern technology to work on the team spirit, doing a lot of individual as well as group work.
“We are not only doing physical training, cardio and the likes. We have the necessary equipment to be able to assess and monitor everyone’s progress. The only difference so far is doing football work on the pitch.
“When we eventually return to the training field, we will need a few weeks to reactivate the football practice and match fitness of the players. We have noticed, however, that everyone is eager to get back on the pitch, although, of course, we all understand the situation needs a very sensitive and a careful approach.”
Middendorp heaps praise on Amakhosi’s management. “We are in a good position, thanks to our management. For example, we were able to bring on board an external stimulus in the form of Diversity Training – that’s where players can express their own fears without coaches interrupting their expressions.”
It pleases Middendorp to work at Kaizer Chiefs with players who are highly professional and who understand their responsibilities very well. “Just to see their body language is pleasing. This is what we worked on from the moment we went into the pre-season camp. We introduced a listening method – it’s a way of listening to the input of players, through discussions, to help us guide the way forward.”
Middendorp and his team are currently on top of the Absa Premiership table. The coach attributes that to behind the scenes work.
“The players are at the centre of the methods we are applying,” he explains. “And we ask for feedback, from the experienced and the young players alike.
“For example, Willard Katsande got injured at some stage and one option was to replace him with Njabulo Blom. However, he was recovering from injury and therefore not available.
“We discussed it and together we looked at various options available – this is different from ‘tell and tell’ on how it should be done. For example, we all know what a good player Lazalous Kambole is and we are working hard to have him show his full potential.
“What is important now is that we all want to become better. That is the understanding of the team and everybody is making a contribution to achieve that.”
On what keeps the Kaizer Chiefs coach otherwise busy during this long time at home, he concludes: “I use the opportunity (granted under Covid-19 Alert Level 4) to walk around the block between 6am and 9am. I also try to eat well.” After he has mentioned these last few words, Middendorp adds with a smile on his face, “the eating part is thanks to the help and guidance from my wife”.