Kaizer Chiefs transfer ban ended up being a blessing as youngsters look to inspire team to continental glory
Share this article:
JOHANNESBURG - FORTUNE favours the brave, so goes the adage. That Kaizer Chiefs had to depend on youngsters to plug the holes in their senior team after being banned from signing players for a year has paid dividends. The young guns are now being credited for inspiring Amakhosi to their first ever CAF Champions League final.
Darrel Matsheke and Sabelo Radebe made their breakthrough in the senior team this season. But perhaps, it's the trio of Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, Happy Mashiane and Njabulo Blom who finally established themselves as professionals in Chiefs' colours.
Mashiane, 23, became the youngest Chiefs player to score in the group stage, after his goal against Petro de Luanda at home.
Blom was colossal in Chiefs' midfield, with former coach Gavin Hunt, saying “he's got everything: the tank, technique and speed”.
Ngcobo's skills often left his markers on the floor. But perhaps, his best game in the Champions Leagues was in the return leg of the semi at home against Wydad AC late last month. He kept the Moroccan defence guessing and was a link going forward.
“I am very happy that we reached this stage of the competition,” Ngcobo said.
“For myself and my career, I think this is a big achievement. There are a lot of people who long for this opportunity.
“Since I've got the opportunity, I'll make it a point that I grab it with both hands.”
Chiefs may be the biggest team in SA football, but they are the only one among the “big three” without a continental star above their crest. Arch-rivals Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns both won the Champions League in 1995 and 2016 respectively.
Should Chiefs prevail in 90 minutes or the lottery of a penalty shootout at Stade Mohammed V in Morocco next Saturday, they'll not only get the star engraved above their emblem but they'll be crowned the Kings of African Football, despite a difficult domestic season.
“With the way things are going at the club, the morale is high,” Mashiane said.
“This means a lot to everyone, especially the club. It's the first time that they've reached this stage of the competition. Being the only remaining team from South Africa also means a lot.”
Chiefs' youngsters will probably head to the final without fear, considering that Arthur Zwane is set to bark instructions on the touchline. Zwane is the mastermind behind Chiefs' profound development graduates, having been deployed to the role since his retirement in 2010.
However, he has been doubling up as the reserve team coach and senior team's interim coach recently after the departure of Hunt, while Stuart Baxter is still waiting for his work permit.