Ernst Middendorp. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/RICHARD HUGGARD
Ernst Middendorp. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/RICHARD HUGGARD

Loyal fans have been an essential ingredient of the recipe that has helped soak a succession of Kaizer Chiefs teams in a rich gravy of success for five decades, and their absence from the stands will be felt by the popular club in these final weeks of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) season.

Chiefs command the largest following in SA football and their rivals acknowledge that the boisterous atmosphere they create serves the dual purpose of motivating the Amakhosi players and intimidating the opposition.

The premiership leaders will feel the disruption to normal life in the stands more than any other club, and the coaches of the eight teams they still have to face this season must be happy they do not have to spend time planning a psychological reaction to the supporters.

Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp is well aware that Covid-19 has deprived them of a hugely influential element of their arsenal as the supporters’ energy will be sorely missed when they face a tricky Bidvest Wits at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday.

“I absolutely think it is very painful not to have our diehard supporters around,” he said. “We know it is a huge expectation from a huge crowd, probably the biggest in the country and in Africa supporting a club like Kaizer Chiefs, in particular now in the 50th birthday year.

“It is something we will miss. On the other side [of the coin], we know everybody will support us, will press their thumbs and will make it happen with good prayers in the morning.

“We know that we have the support and we have to fulfil expectations going into the final day of the season on September 5 and hopefully fulfil the expectation of everybody.

“Of course, we want to win the league.”

Chiefs suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat to relegation-threatened AmaZulu in their last league match before Covid-19 forced the suspension of the season in March.

They will face a serious examination of their title credentials when they face coach Gavin Hunt’s businesslike charges. Wits should go into this encounter with a slight edge as they have 90 minutes of competitive football under their belt after facing Mamelodi Sundowns in the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup on Saturday.

They pushed Sundowns to the limit before going down 3-2 in a tight contest and Middendorp would be advised to take heed of the warning that was issued by Brazilians coach Pitso Mosimane after barely surviving the skirmish.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s a good team. And you can see it’s a good coach‚ Gavin. And you can see he’s a fighter. He will never leave anything easy,” a relieved Mosimane said.

“So we respect them and this is a warning to anyone to say: ‘Hey‚ if you’re going to play Bidvest Wits, be very careful. Don’t think about Tshakhuma and all those things.

“They are alive and kicking. The heartbeat is still there. And they fight.”

Masala Mulaudzi completed a stunning takeover of Wits in July in a move that shook SA club football to its foundations. He acquired the 99-year-old club for an undisclosed fee and is relocating the team to Limpopo at the end of the season.

The Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila owner was introduced to the Wits players recently, but as Mosimane warned, they remain a formidable side and Chiefs will be advised to tread very carefully at Orlando Stadium.

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