Sport

SOCCER

TTM revelling in Nedbank Cup triumph but fight for survival is not over

TTM revelling in Nedbank Cup triumph but fight for survival is not over
Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila players celebrates a victory during the 2021 Nedbank Cup semifinal match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria, on 18 April 2021. (Photo:Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Limpopo side Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila managed to claim the Nedbank Cup in their first-ever appearance in a major final. They are now hoping to use the momentum from this impressive victory to avoid the relegation and promotion playoffs.

Undoubtedly, after their history-making triumph over Chippa United in the Nedbank Cup final, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) are still in honeymoon mode. You can’t blame them for it either, theirs is a remarkable story of turning things around.

However, they will have to shelve some of those positive emotions momentarily with relegation threatening to rain on their parade. As the team’s head coach Dylan Kerr pointed out after the win on Saturday. 

“It’s a great achievement for TTM after the season that they’ve had. The players have been through so many ups and downs, mainly downs, but today they thoroughly deserved it,” said Kerr, who has been working with Mpho Maleka and David Mathebula to ensure the turnaround.

“The players have got to enjoy tonight but not too much because we’ve got a very tricky game against SuperSport on Wednesday and we’re still not out of danger. We’ve got to be careful tonight. There’ll be some celebrations. But they’ll be in bed by 10 o’clock that’s for sure.”

The majority of the downs that coach Kerr alludes to came under the club’s previous administration. Tshakhuma’s previous owner, Lawrence Mulaudzi had bought the DStv Premiership status of the now-defunct Bidvest Wits. 

Previously they campaigned in the GladAfrica Championship, even going as far as reaching the relegation/promotion playoffs last season. 

They lost out on promotion in the playoffs, but that might have had to do with the fact they knew that their Premiership status was already secured. Regardless of the results. 

The team’s arrival in the top-flight was fraught with negative reports from the start, most relating to delays in paying players every month. There were also instances of players leaving the club, barely weeks after signing.

A couple of examples are Oupa Manyisa and Joseph Molangoane. Their departures were also linked to the club’s financial struggles. 

Phoenix rising

Then halfway through their maiden season in the Premiership, TTM were sold to a new owner — Ditonkana Abram Sello. That was the start of their resurgence which has now culminated in them claiming the coveted Nedbank Cup. 

“The challenges we were facing were becoming too much and it ended ruining my reputation, because football is my side business from my main businesses,” Mulaudzi told SABC radio station Phalaphala FM.

“So, we realised that it was becoming too much. Perhaps because the football business was out of our depth because I gave inexperienced and unknowledgeable people from home too much responsibility to run a football club. So we ended up having financial problems whereby I ended up taking the little I was saving for my family.”

It turns out the stewardship of Sello, who also has interests in the pharmaceutical industry, was just what the doctor ordered to aid the ailing rookies and change their fortunes.

They have slowly clawed their way out from the basement, replaced by neighbours Leopards – who are almost guaranteed to fall straight into the Championship. 

As for TTM, they are currently in 14th position, with five games still to play. Of course, they are not yet guaranteed safety, with an unwanted place in the playoffs still very much a possibility.

They lead Nedbank Cup losing finalists, Chippa, by a point. The Nedbank Cup champions, though, have a game in hand on the Chilli Boys, something which will further provide them with the belief that they can escape the inconvenience of the playoffs by the skin on their teeth. 

Of course, as former Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane once famously said, games in hand do not equate to points in hand. So, Vhadau Vha Damani still have a fight on their hands.  

The Limpopo side’s final five fixtures will be tricky too, but they will be hoping to ride the wave of their recent success as they navigate them. They are set to face SuperSport, Maritzburg United, Baroka, Chippa, before closing off the season with a duel against Orlando Pirates. 

Club boss Sello is hoping that the financial reward brought on by the R7-million prize money, as well as the knowledge that they’ll be representing the country in the Caf Confederation Cup next season, will be just the motivation that his players need to ensure survival.

“We are still fighting in the league for safety and we are going to play in the Confederation Cup next season. This will go a long way in motivating everybody because it is not going to be easy,” said Sello. 

Regardless of what happens at the end of the season, the story of TTM is going to be used as an example of what can happen when an organisation is well-governed and the avoidable external noise that disrupts the camp is rendered obsolete. DM

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