“The difference in the quality of players you have is the defining factor in your team doing well or badly.
“Unfortunately, some of us black coaches, we tend to be thrown in areas that are muddy. When you enter into muddy territories you will never come clean,” Kaizer Chiefs’ coach Steve Komphela said after congratulating Pitso Mosimane for being the first black South African coach to win the league in the Premier Soccer League era in 2014.
Komphela uttered those words while still at Maritzburg United.
They have proved prophetic as the former teacher isn’t clean anymore thanks to wallowing in the mud at Chiefs – staring at three trophyless seasons, something that’s unheard of in a club with a rich history of winning trophies.
Komphela isn’t entirely to blame for that, even though he must take some of the blame.
The club’s management have let him down with the quality, or lack thereof, that they have signed for him.
The high numbers of players who have been released after just a season in Komphela’s tenure back that statement.
While Stuart Baxter was signed the Bafana Bafana back four upon his arrival, Komphela was given strikers who are, to borrow a line from a friend – Niren Tolsi – strikers like acrylic thinners is paint.
Bongani Ndulula, Siphelele Mthembu and Camaldine Abraw don’t exactly send shivers down the defenders’ spine, nor would you ever put 'prolific' next to their names.
But Komphela should also have done better than he did with the limited quality he had.
Chiefs have had a decent starting XI that should have nicked a trophy or two in his tenure.
But that trophy wouldn’t be the league because they didn’t have enough depth for that.
A strong bench wins the championship, especially in the final stage with injuries and suspensions taking a toll on the first choice players.
That’s how Bidvest Wits won the league last season, and that’s how Mamelodi Sundowns are likely to win it this season.
I believe that Amakhosi will offer Sundowns a stern test in the fight for the championship and Amakhosi could be crowned champions next season.
Chiefs finally have a bench strong enough to challenge for the main prize but it might be too late this season.
The Soweto giants was rescued by their bench in their last two matches, against Polokwane City and Baroka FC.
Competition for places is so high that one can’t even afford to get sick. That’s why Chiefs owe Komphela one more year to prove his worth.
Amakhosi have finally given him the material he needed after taking over from Baxter.
Baxter was always going to be a tough act to follow after his record-breaking league triumph.
Komphela shot himself in the foot by declaring that he would continue where the British coach left off, with a team that was in need of rejuvenation.
Amakhosi have been rejuvenated in the last three years with a number of young players being introduced into the first team and the signing of star players in Siphelele Ntshangase and Leonardo Castro.
The foundation has been laid for a formidable challenge for the league.
Chiefs would be wise to stick with Komphela, at least for another season, to see what he can do with a good team.
Komphela’s biggest strength has always been assembling teams.
He polished many rough diamonds and turned them to stars who shined bright in his time at Free State Stars and Platinum Stars.
He got the raw end of the deal at Amakhosi and he has been trying to make omelettes from the few eggs he had.
It’s important that Komphela does well at Chiefs not only for himself but other South African coaches who will come after him.
Amakhosi are notorious for having faith in European coaches whose CVs are either doctored or just not good enough for a team of their stature, but would never give a local coach with a bigger pedigree the same courtesy.
If Komphela fails at Chiefs, the club must be able to say that we gave you all the support you needed and you didn’t deliver.
At the moment they can’t say that, only bringing him quality in the last six months of his tenure.
“We are products of the struggle. We have to inspire a lot of people. Even myself, I am not a professional soccer coach. I am an activist,” Komphela said on the night
Mosimane made history almost four years ago.
“When you start a race with your (white) counterparts, black as you are, you must know that you are starting at minus 10km.
“You are put at the back while other people are at zero. If they are at zero and you are minus 10km, you must know that there is no way you will finish the race with them.”