/ 8 November 2007

‘Lost’ Chiefs looking for direction

The Israeli planners who erected the Mmabatho Stadium during Lucas Mangope’s rule probably were a little confused over exactly where the apartheid homeland was heading — and, possibly as a consequence, some of the stands at the curious, if aesthetically shaped, stadium are facing away from the pitch.

It would, therefore, seem an appropriate venue for Kaizer Chiefs to tackle Bloemfontein Celtic in a critical Telkom Knockout semifinal on Saturday afternoon, with the direction in which the troubled Amakhosi are heading equally blurred.

If you are a spectator at Mmabatho Stadium and you are not careful, you might easily find yourself forking out a hefty amount to cover a chiropractor’s bill after straining your neck to follow the proceedings on the pitch.

And after the deflating loss to Soweto rivals Moroka Swallows in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) clash in Durban on Wednesday night — a game that Amakhosi have usually taken in their stride — troubled Chiefs coach Muhsin Ertugral may be suffering from more than a painful neck as his glamour team continue a slide towards mediocrity.

These are early days yet in the season and it could well be premature to write off Chiefs as PSL contenders, but on current form they have certainly been relegated to outsiders in the much-sought championship stakes.

And, under these circumstances, it would seem vital — if not entirely essential — for Chiefs to have an impact in the Telkom Knockout competition to restore faith in the club among their myriad backers and followers.

Once with an aura of well-nigh invincibility in cup competition, Chiefs more recently are looked on by opponents as toothless tigers in front of goal, with Celtic on their day quite capable of adding to the Amakhosi pain.

Fortunately for Chiefs, the Celtic players tend to be an erratic and enigmatic lot and the outcome — the winners qualify for the final and set themselves up to claim the R4,25-million winners’ prize — appears as difficult to evaluate as the Mmabatho Stadium architecture.

Tinashe Nengomasha will have to do yeomen work in gaining control of the midfield and recent signings like striker Mabhudi Khenyeza will have to perform with more good effect than they have thus far if Chiefs are to secure a much-needed victory.

But Celtic have their potential match-winners as well in players such as the evergreen John Maduka, Moses Spandeel and Lebogang Mothibantwa, and Chiefs’ hierarchy will certainly be approaching the Mmabatho clash with some misgivings. — Sapa