Kaizer Chiefs still braced for title challenge
But there’s a long way to go before the team bags the title in its 50th anniversary year
Premier Soccer League (PSL) leaders Kaizer Chiefs remained patient and never panicked even when it seemed there was a prospect of the 2019/2020 season being declared null and void‚ Amakhosi football manager Bobby Motaung has said.
Chiefs still have a long way to go before sealing the title in their 50th anniversary season. But Monday’s announcement by the PSL of an August 8 return to play at least puts Chiefs in a position to continue the challenge for the championship in a season that started on August 3 2019.
“Of course we are happy that we are returning‚” Motaung said. “We have been preparing since we were allowed to start training. So we are all in full swing.”
Chiefs were already facing unusual circumstances for a title chase for SA’s most-supported glamour club. The club with the biggest fan-base in the country was under huge pressure when the season was suspended on March 16 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chiefs had gone four seasons without winning a trophy and ended the 2018/2019 season in ninth place.
And the prospects of celebrating their 50th anniversary with a league title under coach Ernst Middendorp looked grim last week when rumours spread that the season would be abandoned.
“I think we knew that protocols were to be followed. And we have got sensible leadership in football that has been dealing with this matter‚” Motaung said.
“So we have been patient at Kaizer Chiefs‚ looking at the regulations‚ looking at the changes that have been going up and down. We have always been patient and we’re waiting for the right directions.
“We were not really panicking as such. The players have been focused on the preparations. So it’s not like we have been poking our nose into the whole thing.”
Motaung said Chiefs have not put in place special measures to ensure they now clinch the league title in the closed-doors matches in the Gauteng bio-safe environment.
“From where we ended up [in March] we will have to go and forge on. It’s just that obviously it might have an effect because we went four‚ five months without playing‚” he said.
“But it’s not an excuse. We have to face whatever the challenge is out there. It’s the challenge that’s facing us — we have to go out and soldier on.”
It is a challenge facing not only Chiefs but all PSL clubs who have had to use initiative to keep players focused during the four-month break.
On the other hand‚ Chiefs’ players have been sitting at home with just the league title to think of for months‚ and it could also serve as timely motivation for a team that allowed a commanding lead to slip when football was suspended.
Motaung was asked if Chiefs have brought in a sports psychologist since the return‚ given the exceptional circumstances.
“Those things were there in place before we started [the lockdown]‚ in terms of how we help the players off the field‚” he said. “It’s been part of the process.”
The weekend of August 8 sees football return with the Nedbank Cup semifinals. The rest of the teams enter the bio-safe environment on August 11‚ with the official kickoff date of the Premiership likely to be the weekend of August 15.
Chiefs have a four-point lead over second-placed defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns‚ who have a game in hand.
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