fast little loans
Johannesburg – Former Kaizer Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic was unapproachable and players never really played to their full potential last season under the Serbian’s guidance, midfielder Willard Katsande reveals.
It’s just past lunch time at his home in Meredale, south of Johannesburg, and Katsande is not as comfortable as he was before the Vermezovic subject popped up. There is no eye contact as he holds his forehead, as if to say, “do we have to talk about this?”
However, he eventually does. “I’m not saying the previous coach (Vermezovic) was bad, but the guys were not free to ask where do we improve, or where to go or something like that. We could not approach him. Last season, we were performing but not performing good enough. We were not performing to our best. And you could see that the guys were scared to showcase themselves,” says Katsande.
We are nowhere near the end of our interview, and if more was to come out of it, the Vermezovic subject had to be closed and closed fast. And so we move on.
What’s it like working with Stuart Baxter?
Suddenly he sits up and his face lights up when the conversation shifts to focus on current coach Baxter, whom he says, has given players freedom to express themselves on and off the pitch.
It’s just one of many reasons, he feels, Amakhosi have dominated the Premiership in a bid to avoid a repeat of last season’s trophy-less campaign.
“It has changed this season. We are playing with full confidence now and we are not scared to make mistakes,” the 27-year-old midfielder says, while his younger brother Brandon, who is hoping to playing for Amakhosi one day, listens from the couch across the room.
He goes on: “With Baxter we can approach him and he approaches us as well. He will tell you where to go and what to do to improve your game. He came to me and asked if I had watched the Argentinian holding midfielders, in particular (Esteban) Cambiasso. I’ve watched him and I would say my game has improved a lot with Baxter. He has helped us and he has instilled confidence in us. We are there to work for him and we are there to make him happy. He is the best for us that’s why we are doing well.”
Katsande, in particular, has been terrific this season, playing his football in the shadows as the team’s anchorman – a role which his childhood hero, Tinashe Nengomasha, mastered so well for 10 years at Chiefs before making a surprise move across town to Bidvest Wits.
“You know, when Tinashe made his debut (in 2003) for Chiefs, I was in form three in high school, which in South Africa is grade 10. I still have posters of him on my wall back home in Zimbabwe. I’ll take you home one day and you’ll see. Even my school books had pictures of him on the cover.
“I’m happy that I got to play in the same team as him when I joined last season. I’m thrilled that I’m the one now playing in the position he played,” says Katsande, a dogged midfielder who never gives an opponent a moment’s rest.
Youngster Lucky Baloyi was earmarked for a role in front of the back four, having shown glimpses of brilliance last season. Instead Katsande has come in this season and is showing that he can be the lynchpin in midfield who Amakhosi fans can rely on for many years to come.
The Zimbabwean, who joined Amakhosi last season, looks forward to making an even greater impact than his compatriot Nengomasha, who actually played a big role in Katsande’s move to Chiefs last season.
“He (Nengomasha) is one of the guys I have looked up to, but I don’t want to be compared to him. There are things that I can’t do that he can does expertly, and there are things he can’t do that I do. I can’t mention them, though. Football is a funny game. Who knows, maybe I will do even better than him and win more trophies than he did with Chiefs.
“Tinashe is a good man. He played a big role in my move to Chiefs because he texted Bobby (Motaung) to come and watch our national team (Zimbabwe) against Zambia. I was playing with Tinashe in midfield that day. Chiefs spoke to my agent, Edzai Kasinauyo (a former Cape Town Spurs star) after the game and they arranged everything. I’m here and I want to do my best for the team,” says Katsande, who has six caps for Zimbabwe.
Joining Chiefs, the midfielder admits, came as a huge surprise considering he had recorded just four starts and 11 substitute appearances when he eventually got his work permit at Ajax Cape Town – the first club he played for in South Africa before moving up north to the Soweto giants.
“I started three league games and one cup game, in the Nedbank Cup and made 11 substitute appearances for Ajax, which is not good enough.
“To be honest, I did not think a club like Chiefs would come looking for me. Who wants to sign a player who is not playing regularly? Chiefs are a big club and they can’t afford to sign a player who is sitting on the bench – Maybe if I was coming from Europe, they would take a risk.”
Katsande has worked incredibly hard to prove he was worth the risk and has since been crucial to Chiefs’ title challenge this season.
And if Chiefs are to hold off Pirates’ surge for the championship, no one will deserve more credit for their title win than Katsande, a self-effacing player content to let others grab the headlines.
He is the personification of a kind of excellence that is built on collective responsibility rather than individual brilliance.
On Saturday, Katsande faces Pirates at FNB Stadium (3.30pm), looking to improve on a bad record for the club against the Buccaneers since joining Chiefs.
“This is going to be my fifth derby. We have won once only. We lost in the MTN8 final (2011), we won 2-1 in the league (last season) and lost the second leg league match 3-2. We drew in the first half of this season. We also played in the Black Label and lost on penalties. We hope we can win this one,” he says.
Yet to get a feel of what it’s like to win a trophy in the PSL, Katsande is determined to finish the season with an honours medal which he can put on display in his home.
He believes Chiefs have a very good chance of winning the league and cup double – the Premiership and Nedbank Cup.
“We must win the league title. Every Kaizer Chiefs fan is wishing that we win this league.
“That’s why we are working hard each day so that we get something for the club. We have a good chance of winning the double.
“And I believe we have the quality to do it. We wish we can continue to play the way we have been playing.”
Should Chiefs find themselves in a good position to win the title on the last day of the season, Katsande says he’ll bring his mother over from Zimbabwe to watch and share in what he hopes will be Amakhosi’s crowning moment of the campaign.
“I’m planning to bring her over for the Carling Black Label cup later this year. But we will see what happens in the future. I’ll look to where we are on the table when we’ve got three or four matches left in the season. Then she’ll come and celebrate with us.”
She’ll certainly be proud of her son, who is looking to join a long list of Zimbabwean players to have done well in the PSL. – The Star