DURBAN – If Kaizer Chiefs don’t win the CAF Confederation Cup, or at least reach the knockout stage, it wouldn’t be through a lack of trying. It would simply be because they aren’t good enough.
Amakhosi have no choice but to take this competition seriously this season, instead of looking down on it like they have done in the past.
In 2005 the Confederation of African Football (CAF) slapped Chiefs with a three-year ban from CAF competitions after they refused to honour a Confederation Cup fixture, following their demotion from the CAF Champions League. Under Stuart Baxter, the Soweto giants fielded a second string team in the competition and only sent assistant coach Doctor Khumalo to one of the away fixtures.
Their actions in the past have led to people believing they look down on this competition. But after three barren seasons, and a coach who is looking to impress, Chiefs have no choice but to give the Confederation Cup their all.
They could get away with not taking it seriously in the past because they were chasing league glory, which they got, and the Confederation Cup wasn’t that financially rewarding. They have no excuses now that there’s more money (just over R17 million for the winners) and no local glory on the horizon.
“We want to win a cup,” Chiefs football manager Bobby Motaung said. “We are going there to compete. We are not going there for fun. Every game that Kaizer Chiefs play - whether it’s a friendly, the Confederation Cup or the league - we go there with a responsibility.
It is about the brand, the country and the job we have to do. There’s nothing like Kaizer Chiefs has never taken Africa serious. It’s just that in football you do lose.
“I know that people gauge us with (Mamelodi) Sundowns now. But if you remember, Sundowns had also lost (in the second round of the 2016 CAF Champions League), but with God’s grace they were brought back and won it. They have been losing even now. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t taking it seriously because they’ve got a star.
You don’t go there intentionally to lose, you don’t say you are going there to play a second team. We don’t have a second team here. Anybody who plays here is a first team player.”
Motaung revealed that the final straw that led to Giovanni Solinas’s sacking was the 2-1 loss Chiefs suffered at the hands of Zimamoto in Tanzania in the Confederation Cup. Luckily for the club they had done enough in the first leg to win the tie 5-2 on aggregate. They also look to have done enough against ASSM Elgeco Plus, who they beat 3-0 in Durban in the first leg of the first round.
Amakhosi will look to wrap up the tie on Saturday in Madagascar to advance to the play-offs, which precede the group stage. Should new coach Ernst Middendorp guide Chiefs to the group stage, it would put him in a good position in his bid to win over Chiefs fans.
“We don’t have short-term goals (for the coach),” Motaung said. “He’s got a two-and-a-half year contract. So he is hitting the ground running. Along the journey, if there are any challenges with the team, we will also bolster the team and help him. It’s a straight-forward business. He is coming here to work.”@Minenhlecr7