Celtic coach plots to write his own history
JOHANNESBURG - Having been at Bloemfontein Celtic for the past 16 years, John Maduka knows the club like the back of his hand. And that’s why there’s no person better equipped to guide the club back to the glory days than him.
A well-travelled defender during his heydays – having had stints at clubs such as the defunct Bush Bucks and AmaZulu – Maduka joined the team from the City of Roses in 2004. He was instrumental from the outset.
In his second season, Maduka inspired the team to the SAA Supa8 crown. This is one of the few major pieces of silverware in the club’s 51-year existence. And so, when he hung up his boots in 2009, there was no way the club could let go of such a gem.
The then-39-year-old grabbed the opportunity with both hands and was the team manager when Phunya Sele Sele stunned Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 to win the Telkom Knockout crown at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in December 2012.
From there he was rotated in various positions within the team. But he didn’t moan, ready to serve when called upon – even when the treatment appeared unfair. Remember when he was moved back to the team manager role after coach Luc Eymael refused to work with him?
It was like he knew his time would come. He’ll have to thank the charismatic Steve Komphela who was keen to work with him in the first team. When the latter left, he remained as an assistant to fellow club legend Lehlohonolo Seema.
Amidst the club’s financial woes they didn’t drop their heads, injecting positivity in the players as Celtic finished in the top eight three seasons ago, qualifying for the Wafa Wafa competition.
But during the Covid-19 disrupted season in July, Seema resigned to join Chippa United. Maduka ascended to the throne and helped the team finish in the top eight and final of the Nedbank Cup where they lost to Sundowns.
But the 50-year-old didn’t despair, guiding the team to a successive cup final – the MTN8 in just three months – in his first full season in charge. Maduka’s men will be out to challenge for those first honours of the season against Orlando Pirates in Durban tonight.
This clash should give Maduka more reason to believe that he can pull off the improbable. After all, it will be staged at the Moses Mabhida Stadium at 6pm tonight, and he’ll recall it was the first trophy he won at the club (the SAA Supa8) before it was renamed.
He’s already lost to Pirates 1-0 in the league this season, but he’ll hope to build on a CAF Confederation Cup preliminary win, with his rested players from that game expected to guide the team over the finish line.
Captain Ndumiso Mabena has been a live wire for Celtic. Kudos should also go to Victor Letsoalo who has continued where he left off in the Nedbank, scoring the decisive goals in the quarter-finals against Sundowns and champions SuperSport United in the semi-finals.
It will take a collective effort to tame the Sea Robbers who are favourites. Maduka, though, who says his team has learnt their lesson from their last cup defeat to Sundowns, knows just how important it is to “write our own history”.