SPECULATION about the future of goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune at Kaizer Chiefs continues to rage as Amakhosi line up to face Bidvest Wits in Wednesday night’s Absa Premiership fixture at FNB Stadium.
Conjecture was fuelled on Tuesday by a full-page advertisement published in major newspapers for the Carling Black Label Cup. The advert depicted the Chiefs and Pirates lineups but the Chiefs squad did not include Khune.
The Bafana Bafana goalkeeper and his agents have been in prolonged negotiations with the club to renew a contract that ends next month.
Khune, who has had an injury-plagued season, has not been brought back into the starting lineup since being sent off for earning a double booking for wasting time, and then remonstrating with officials in Chiefs’ 1-0 win against AmaZulu on April 9.
He seems unlikely to feature for the new champions again tonight after the strong performances in goal of the towering Reyaad Pieterse.
Chiefs football manager Bobby Motaung would not comment on Tuesday on the advertisement promoting next season’s Carling Cup match between Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, which featured 14 senior players from both Soweto giants. "I’m dealing with player contract issues next week. I don’t want to comment on them now," was all he would say on Tuesday.
Amakhosi wrapped up the title with their 4-1 victory against Polokwane City two weeks ago. They then broke Mamelodi Sundowns’ year-old record of 65 points, going to 66, with a last-gasp 1-0 victory thanks to Bernard Parker’s injury time goal against the run of play against Downs at Lucas Moripe Stadium last Wednesday.
One might think there would not be much left to play for when Amakhosi meet one-time dark-horse challengers Bidvest Wits, whose inconsistency appears even to have cost them second place.
But veteran midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala said this week Chiefs still have the motivation of a place in history in setting a record that would be very likely to stand for many seasons.
"We have broken the record, but if you still want more you still have to get results," Tshabalala said.
"We’ll be that generation who won the league with the most points. As a player, that’s good to have in your profile. After your playing days people will still remember that generation."
Tshabalala might have fallen out of favour with Bafana, but still remains a firm Chiefs favourite.
At 30, his value to the club was shown when the midfielder signed a new three-year contract in January. Tshabalala has remained influential in one of the club’s most dominant seasons.
Wits’ ultracompetitive, perfectionist coach Gavin Hunt has become increasingly frustrated at his side’s inability to string together consistent results.
In their past four matches the Clever Boys followed up a 2-0 win against Pirates with a draw against Chippa United, defeat to Free State Stars and Saturday’s 2-2 home draw against Mpumalanga Black Aces, where Wits missed plenty of chances.
"It’s got to be the same story the whole season — that’s why we’re third or fourth in the league and not nearer the top," Hunt lamented afterwards.
"Before Black Aces scored we could have been five or six up, but what can you do? We’ve just got to keep grinding, keep making chances.
"But some of those chances today, I think even Stevie Wonder could have scored those," he said.
With two game remaining, fourth-placed Wits, on 46 points, stand almost no chance of catching Mamelodi Sundowns (51) for the runner-up spot.