No Chiefs cheers for this hero

Once hailed as a hero, former Chiefs star Shane MacGregor will be hoping to hand out a beating to his former team this weekend

SOCCER: Andrew Muchineripi

SUPERSPORT UNITED player-coach Shane MacGregor, the forward who once starred for Kaizer Chiefs, will plot the downfall of his former club at the weekend.

The teams clash in an intriguing Coca-Cola Cup quarter-final at the Rand Stadium on Saturday with the Amakhosi seeking revenge over one of only two clubs to defeat them this year.

On a wet, midweek night last March, Supersport upset the team in black and gold 2-1 through goals from midfielders Zane Alexander and captain Thomas Madigage.

Chiefs recovered smartly from the setback to win the Coca-Cola Challenge Cup and qualify for the African Champions’ Cup, an option they may not take up because of the heavy costs involved.

MacGregor was a Chiefs hero in the early 1990s, forming a lethal attacking partnership with Fani Madida, who plies his trade in the Turkish First Division these days.

Now 33, MacGregor still laces his boots come match day, but when Nicky Shaw returns from injury later this year to partner new signing Marc Batchelor, the player capped once by Bafana Bafana is likely to take a back seat. The Coca-Cola Cup has a tradition of upsets with Amazulu, Umtata Bucks, QwaQwa Stars and Wits lifting the trophy against the odds since its inception five years ago.

Strange, then, that the quarter-final line-up this season should include traditional giants Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Sundowns plus Supersport, Bush Bucks, Jomo Cosmos, Wits and QwaQwa Stars. Perhaps the quarter-finals will witness the slaying of the giants with Chiefs managing director Kaizer Motaung sending out smoke signals this week that suggest his side has little chance of progressing further.
A white flag from Kaizer! Seems like a bit of psychological warfare is being staged here as the day Chiefs believe they have no chance of winning is the day darkness descends over Johannesburg at noon. Everyone has been hammering the Amakhosi, including officials, coaches, and the media, but two defeats in 23 matches is a record most of their rivals would gladly settle for.

What critics do say, with justification, is that Chiefs circa 1996 fall short of the standard set by the great teams of the 1980s and early 1990s. Those were the golden days when the Amakhosi ruled supreme. Ace Ntsoelengoe, “Teenage” Dladla, Sylvester Kole, “Ace” Khuse, Doctor Khumalo, “Shoes” Moshoeu, Marks Maponyane. The list is endless. All skilful stars who drew the crowds like bees to honey.

National captain Neil Tovey is one link with the past although the legs do not cover the ground as quickly so he has swopped the trench warfare of midfield for a commanding view of the the battle from the rear. Thabang Lebese, Isaac “Shakes” Kungoane and David Modise are erratic crowd pleasers in midfield and up front Chiefs must long for another prolific partnership like Madida and MacGregor.

First-choice forwards Pollen Ndlanya (suspended) and Mike Rapatsa (injured) are out of action, further weakening an area which is giving Chiefs’ hierarchy sleepless nights.

Supersport rank among the most ambitious and progressive clubs in the country with former Southampton and England winger Terry Paine MBE and MacGregor at the helm.

The transformation of the club since the pay television station took charge less than two years ago has been remarkable even if much of the time has been spent in the Second Division.

Pretoria City (as they were known then) won promotion last December and reached the Bob Save Super Bowl final before bowing to Cape Town Spurs after a five-goal thriller.

That earned Supersport a place in the African Cup- winners’ Cup (double winners Spurs were compelled to enter the more prestigious Champions’ Cup) and they reached the quarter-finals before withdrawing this week. The club were unhappy about visiting Algeria, where more than 60 000 lives have been lost since civil war erupted in 1992 when the military-backed government cancelled legislative elections the Islamic fundamentalists were poised to win.

MacGregor is not the only former Chiefs player in the squad, fullback Rudolf Seale spent many seasons racing down the left wing on behalf of the black and gold.

Seale is one of five players bought at the beginning of the year with forward Richard Peer coming from Witbank Aces, and defender Ronnie Zondi, midfielder Alexander and forward Roger Lupiya from Cape Town Spurs. Zambian Lupiya has not performed to expectations while the rest have fitted smoothly into a team whose target of a top-eight Premier Soccer League finish appears well within reach.

Friday: Wits v QwaQwa Stars, Milpark 8pm.

Saturday: Supersport United v Kaizer Chiefs, Rand Stadium.

Sunday: Sundowns v Jomo Cosmos, HM Pitje; Bush Bucks v Orlando Pirates, Boet Erasmus.

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