Sipho Chaine, Bloemfontein Celtic’s reserve team keeper, found himself in an unenviable situation when the team just couldn’t get their winning script in place during the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons.
Celtic finished those MultiChoice Diski Challenge seasons as runners-up to Mamelodi Sundowns and Golden Arrows, booking tours to the Netherlands and Spain respectively.
It was not a matter of Phunya Sele Sele being inferior to the two teams, as they had the lethal ability to score the goals, but they just lacked the sound defensive unit in their back four.
Chaine had to take the blame for those frailties, looking like a man who undid all the team’s hard work by conceding goals that left them with sentiments of being so close and yet so far.
“I think when it comes to modern day football it’s not about the number of the goals that you concede as a goalkeeper but we are a team,’’ Chaine said here in London.
“If the people around you keep on encouraging you then you tend to forget what happened. They push you into doing better, it’s a collective effort. I think the relationship has to start outside the field of play, where you grow to understand each other. Personality is very important when you play in the back five of the team.’’
Since the reserve league began five seasons ago, it’s been difficult to find correlation between the Celtic first team and the feeder teams. After all, the club is run by the same administration, while the senior team coach is the mouthpiece of the club.
When Phunya Sele Sele were inconsistent in their coaching department in those seasons, that affected the entire club. But enter the 2018/19 season, there was stability in the club. And it’s all thanks to the philosophical Steve Komphela, who took over the reins despite the club’s financial woes.
Under Komphela, not only were Celtic challengers for a top-three spot but juniors finally found the X-factor to clinch the sought-after Diski Challenge.
“Coach Steve was the difference to the club this season,” Chaine said of their former mentor.
“Not only was his philosophy portrayed in the first team players but to us as the reserves as well. Even today we are champions of the Diski, because we play in the same system that he installed in us.”
Chaine and Co are currently in London, where they are getting intensive training lessons from some of the world’s best coaches as part of their rewrad for winning the Diski.
The 10-day tour that started on Thursday has already seen the team from the City of Roses watching renowned clubs such as Arsenal in the Uefa Europa League, followed yesterday by West Ham United hosting Huddersfield Town.
The 22-year-old goalie will have his real character tested when they clash with the Hammers’ reserves tomorrow.
He insists, though, that’s he’s looking forward to the game and will do his utmost best to do his team proud.