Sport

QUEST FOR SILVER

Molefi Ntseki the latest coach to try to end Kaizer Chiefs’ long trophy drought

Molefi Ntseki the latest coach to try to end Kaizer Chiefs’ long trophy drought
Then Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki at a 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match against Ghana at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on 25 March 2021. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images)

Former Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki is the latest in a long list of tacticians charged with ending Kaizer Chiefs’ eight-year trophy drought. Not the preferred choice for many, he will be aiming to prove his detractors wrong.

It’s an unwritten rule in sports. You pick your team, then proceed to support it through thick and thin. Through the good and the bad. For better or worse. You stick it out.

A silverware drought at one of Africa’s most supported and successful soccer clubs – Kaizer Chiefs – has some supporters of the ailing giant reconsidering their loyalties. Whether they will follow through on this sacrilegious act only they know.

However, should they stay put in Naturena, they seem set to endure another bumpy ride come next season. This comes after the club appointed former Bafana Bafana coach, Molefi Ntseki, to the position of head coach ahead of the 2023/24 DStv Premiership campaign.      

Ntseki – who vacates his previous position as Amakhosi’s head of technical and youth development – does not have much experience coaching at club level.

Kaizer Chiefs football manager Bobby Motaung and head of technical Molefi Ntseki at FNB Stadium on the 26 May 2022 (Photo: © Sydney Mahlangu / BackpagePix)

Nevertheless, he has replaced former Kaizer Chiefs star player Arthur Zwane as head coach. The former Bafana Bafana midfielder presided over a particularly underwhelming season last time out – one plagued by inconsistency, despite some promising displays.  

As a result, they ended the 2022/23 season in a disappointing fifth place, and a mammoth 26 points behind eventual champions Mamelodi Sundowns.

Chosen one

The Amakhosi hierarchy believes Ntseki will be the one to finally end their eight-season barren run without a major trophy.

“We know it’s not an easy task, but we believe his experience and knowledge will help us improve and achieve our goals as Kaizer Chiefs. He has been here for two years, working well with coaches Arthur and Dillon [Sheppard] in his role as head of technical. He will now work with them in a different capacity,” said club chairperson Kaizer Motaung.

Before taking up his previous role in Naturena, Ntseki was at the helm as head coach when Bafana Bafana failed to qualify for the most recent edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Cameroon.

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Before that he worked as assistant to former Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter, while the latter was Bafana Bafana boss. He climbed his way up to that role after having been assistant in the under-20 and under-23 teams. He was also the head coach of Amajimbos – South Africa’s under-17 team.

“I thank [the Chiefs hierarchy] for their confidence and belief in me to become the captain of the ship. I look forward to working with everyone involved in the technical team, to bring joy to our millions of Amakhosi supporters around the world.”

A point to prove

Though he is not the horse that many were backing, the 53-year-old will be keen to prove his detractors wrong. Amakhosi were strongly linked to Nasreddine Nabi before announcing Ntseki.

The Tunisian mentor recently coached Tanzanian side Yanga SC with much success, including leading the club to the domestic league title, unbeaten, in his debut campaign, before defending it last season, as well as winning a couple of domestic cups.

However, the deal with Amakhosi allegedly fell through as the parties could not agree terms.

“I thought we were going to get someone better. Not that Ntseki is not good enough. But I don’t think he’s proven enough to be a quality coach for a big club like Kaizer Chiefs. It’s a mismatch. But I might be wrong,” said South African soccer legend Lucas Radebe, who played for Amakhosi in the early 1990s, told the media recently.  

With it being public knowledge that he was not the primary choice for Amakhosi, it remains to be seen just how supporters will receive Ntseki when the new season starts.

Molefi Ntseki talks to the media at FNB Stadium on 26 May 2022. (Photo: © Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Especially since they are historically a temperamental bunch of followers, not accustomed to the tough times they have endured in recent years.

They even went as far as organising a march to the Soweto side’s headquarters two years ago and handing over a memorandum of their grievances to the team’s leadership.

This was received by marketing director Jessica Motaung and sporting director Kaizer Motaung Junior.

Since then, little has changed in Chiefs’ on-field fortunes. Meaning Ntseki is entering a beehive and hoping to hypnotise the restless bees in it. The only way he can do that is to win. 

Coaching musical chairs

Zwane becomes the latest coach to fail in his attempt to snap Chiefs’ rotten run without any major trophies, which stretches all the way back to 2015. Before him it was Gavin Hunt, who led Amakhosi to the Caf Champions League semifinals, before being fired.

The Soweto club eventually lost the final to record African champions Al Ahly in mid-2021.

Then Baxter – the last coach to steer Chiefs to silverware success – returned for a second stint. This time he could not work the magic of his first tenure. He too was shown the door.

Zwane then ascended to the seat a year ago. It was hoped that as a player who was important for Chiefs during a period where they played some of their best soccer, he would reinvigorate the team’s winning spirit as a coach. Alas.

Now the baton is with Ntseki, the club’s fourth coach in four seasons. And time will reveal all. DM

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