at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Johannesburg - There’s good reason to look forward to Chippa United’s Premiership matches next season. They have Kosta Papic at the helm and football fans who watched Black Leopards during the past season in the National First Division, and in their Nedbank Cup clash with Kaizer Chiefs as well as the promotion play-offs recently, will know that the kind of football Papic wants his men to play is enterprising – something we don’t often see in the PSL. How Chiefs won that game, having been on the back foot for long periods before Knowledge Musona’s goal in extra time, still baffles me.
It was the same when Papic was in charge at Orlando Pirates 10 years ago, attacking relentlessly with the likes of Lebohang Mokoena, Joseph Makhanya, Tyren Arendse, Steve Lekoelea, the late Gift Leremi and Benedict Vilakazi as the driving force of a very talented midfield. These players had the skill to find a chink in any armour and Papic gave them that freedom to use it to great effect, but they were often let down by their finishing. I always wonder how much of a mean machine they would have been had striker Lesley Manyathela been around during Papic’s two seasons at Pirates.
Eight years after leaving Pirates, Papic joined Leopards and rekindled his days as a Pirates coach, except that Leopards were a bit more innovative in trying to open up opposition defenders, unlike Pirates, who just ran and ran throughout the 90 minutes and entertained the crowd with a few step-overs.
Last Sunday at the Giyani Stadium, I watched Papic’s Leopards play Polokwane City in the final play-off match. That early goal conceded put them off a little, but Leopards bounced back and played with guile. Were it not for the woodwork, which they hit four times in the enthralling encounter, Leopards would be in the PSL on Saturday.
Not even Papic could fathom how his team did not win that match, especially after City had sat back and held on for dear life to get a win after their midfielder Sandile Sibande was sent off.
But that’s football and Papic now has a new challenge of turning Chippa into one of the more enterprising teams in the PSL. And they can be sure that’s going to happen.
At Pirates, Papic’s first season was quite good, although he did not have a trophy to show for it. The Buccaneers scored 52 goals, but they were not as lethal the season thereafter, scoring just 39. Still, they played some attractive, attacking football.
Papic was not quite as successful at Maritzburg United and Kaizer Chiefs, but after making a surprise comeback with Leopards in the past season, the Yugoslavian turned them into a mean machine going forward, as the club scored 53 goals.
What was also impressive about Leopards was their passing game, which made their build-ups great to watch. Leonard Ntshangase and Edgar Manaka were the orchestrators in that midfield.
Whether they are playing at home or away, the teams Papic coaches never sit back and expect more of the same in the coming season.
Chippa were confident they would have Steve Komphela in the hotseat next season after he reportedly signed a contract with the club, but the deal hit a snag.
With Komphela at the helm, Chippa were going to be an organised unit in defence. Komphela is the type of coach who is happy to win 1-0 or 2-1, whereas Papic does not mind if he wins 5-4 and that at times can be dangerous if they are conceding too many goals.
This past season, Leopards conceded 37 goals in 30 matches, so while he works on building another mean machine, Papic might want to make sure his defenders do not let him down.
Papic might not have been Chippa’s first-choice coach to lead them in the Premiership, but owner Chippa Mpengesi should not lose his patience and fire the coach when the going gets tough.
At Leopards, Papic did not win a game in his first seven matches, but management did not lose patience and gave him time to build a formidable side to make a serious challenge for the title. And look what he managed to build. Leopards were a headache for opposing clubs.
Expect Chippa to give clubs sleepless nights.
*Follow Tshepang on Twitter @T_Mailwane