JOHANNESBURG – Everything about Kaizer Chiefs’ message to their fans was ominous, from the black their famous logo rested on, as if the club was embracing mourning, to the language used in describing the club’s 2018/19 season as “unacceptable”.
Chiefs’ management promised to shake things up in order to stop the rot that has seen them go an unprecedented four seasons without a trophy.
The fourth season hurt more than the previous three. Chiefs finished outside the top eight for the first time in more than a decade. They fired a coach after five months, an anomaly at Chiefs.
Chairman Kaizer Motaung normally gives coaches time and isn’t swayed by supporters’ whims. But what hurt Amakhosi the most was losing the Nedbank Cup final against a first division side, TS Galaxy, who are just 10 months old. If this didn’t force Chiefs to do some serious introspection, nothing will.
“This past season has been an unacceptable one in which we have fallen well short of the standards we set for ourselves,” the statement read. “We have let ourselves down and we know we have bitterly disappointed and failed to meet the expectations of our supporters and stakeholders.
“It has been four barren seasons now, and as Kaizer Chiefs management we will do all we possibly can to remedy the situation.”
Chiefs’ management need to start with the person in the mirror. The lows Amakhosi have sunk to have been mainly caused by how the club has conducted its business. Amakhosi have relied too much on their brand and stature as the most successful club in the country to attract talent. That doesn’t work any more. Chiefs need to show the players the money, but more importantly they need to sell them a vision.
Mamelodi Sundowns have the CAF Champions League and domestic league dominance while Orlando Pirates have a search for a second Champions League title. Chiefs don’t even have continental ambitions as their domestic troubles have held them captive.
Chiefs have been poor at attracting talent. Clubs like Cape Town City, Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United have assembled better squads. Ninth place is a fair reflection of where Amakhosi are - nowhere near the championship-chasing teams. Amakhosi’s management have to first acknowledge their mistakes before they can fix the club.
Too many times in the past they have hidden behind arrogance, with only Motaung senior admitting that they might have erred in some of their signings, as too many players have been brought to Naturena only to be let go at the end of the season.
“The rebuilding process for the 2019/20 season is already under way and all the necessary actions will be taken to ensure we restore this iconic institution to where it rightfully belongs - at the summit of South African football,” Chiefs said.
“We are bolstering the technical team, the playing personnel and strengthening the football department in preparation for the new season. The club has recently gone through some restructuring and has appointed new members to the board of directors. The board will play a critical role in charting the way forward.”
Sundowns and Pirates have been in this position before. They bounced back by admitting where they had erred, and then invested in good squads and competent technical teams to lead them out of troubled waters. Chiefs need to do the same if they are to return to the big time.