JOHANNESBURG – Inside this cathedral that had thousands of worshippers, Steve Komphela passionately sang along to “lomoya wam’ uyavuma” as the players entered the pitch in what could potentially be his last Soweto Derby.
This football song also leans on the religious side, talking about a spirit that’s agreeable to the prevailing conditions.
The spirit took over the Kaizer Chiefs coach, who clapped his hands and danced along to the song like he was in church with his now trademark jersey wrapped around his neck – perhaps hiding the noose that tightens with each passing match in two-and-a-half trophyless seasons.
The reasoning behind this being potentially his last Soweto Derby is that it looks like only divine intervention will help him prolong his stay at Amakhosi beyond the end of the season, with the club staring at three seasons without a trophy.
That’s unheard of at Chiefs.
Despite the pressure and the calls for his head, Komphela has remained a true gentleman and has adopted a number of religious parables.
His now trademark look encompasses both, and when quizzed about the look and it coinciding with Chiefs’ unbeaten run, he said it was purely accidental.
“But if the Almighty says ‘Put on the cross’ (he said while motioning at the jersey around his neck), then I will keep putting on the cross,” Komphela replied.
That “cross” lost its power on Saturday, dismantled by a team with logo featuring a skull and crossbones.
Komphela cut a lonely figure on the Chiefs bench, standing alone in the firing line while the Pirates “brothers” – Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic and his assistant Rhulani Mokwena – both stood up to relay instructions to the players in a noisy environment that turned them to aficionados in sign language.
Fourth official Victor Hlungwani worked tirelessly to tell the pair that they can only have one person standing up at a time.
Micho: “It has been a dream finish to a week where we’ve taken care of all the details. I would like to give credit to Rhulani & the Technical Team”
In certain instances, passion got the better of them and they both stood up, but for the better part, Sredojevic retreated to the post of the dug-out when Mokwena jumped into action.
This displayed the great relationship the pair enjoy in a dynamic working environment that’s held together by the love they have for the club.
Sredojevic describes himself as a Pirates fan before he is their coach, while Mokwena’s blood is black-and-white as the son of Julius “KK” Sono, which makes him Jomo Sono’s nephew and Eric “Scara” Sono’s grandson – all legendary figures at the Buccaneers.
Evil prevails when good men do nothing. Today the good men of @orlandopirates & @KaizerChiefs set aside their differences to stand together as one with @blacklabelsa & South Africa, saying NO to gender-based abuse
Komphela stood alone in the firing line because he hasn’t had such a figure supporting him.
There were rumours that his relationship with his first assistant Doctor Khumalo was strained, which led to Khumalo’s departure.
John Paintsil and Patrick Mabedi, who replaced the Ghanaian, look like yes-men who would never dare “challenge” the boss.
That’s three assistants in three seasons, which has led to some arguing that Chiefs management have gone around the problem instead of tackling it head-on.
But that same management couldn’t have pulled the trigger on Komphela and say they gave him a sufficient arsenal.
It’s only this season that Komphela has had enough ammunition to go toe-to-toe with the big boys.
But the problem is that he struggled to make the most of the limited material he had in the past to buy him time while he rebuilds Amakhosi.
His saving grace is the players he developed, building a team that can compete for the championship next season and promoting a number of players from the club’s academy.
The big question, though, is will he be there to see that through or will someone inherit the foundation he has laid? This loss tipped the scale heavily to the latter.