JOHANNESBURG – Ernst Middendorp is unfazed by the baggage he inherited when he took over an under-performing Kaizer Chiefs in December with the mandate to immediately end a three-season long trophy drought.
The German coach had to hit the ground running due to the failures of Steve Komphela and Giovanni Solinas who couldn’t bring any trophies to the country’s cup kings.
Amakhosi are staring at four trophy-less seasons, which makes it imperative that Middendorp brings either the Absa Premiership or the Nedbank Cup to Naturena this season. The Nedbank Cup is Chiefs’ best chance of ending the drought with some of the big names having been knocked out in the last 32.
But that means a lot of banana peels stand between Chiefs and the final, including their last 16 opponents on Sunday at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, amateur side The Magic FC.
Middendorp can’t afford any slip-ups. Even though he came late into the season, he doesn’t have the luxury of time with the high demands that come from managing Amakhosi.
“It’s always a little bit difficult managing a club like Chiefs or any club of this magnitude,” Middendorp said. “You must know that you have to win every game. There’s a contract (to win every game) written on the DNA of Kaizer Chiefs. Good! Knowing this, what are you doing (about it)?
Don’t think about when you were hired. You hurry up to move your legs, brain and entire body to do as much as possible to prepare the team and give them the scenarios and knowledge.”
Middendorp continued: “Hopefully you’ll head in the direction to be successful. In the moment, that’s what we are doing. There’s a clear understanding that we want to win every game. I said that in the Soweto Derby and now it’s this match.
We have to reach the last eight. I don’t want to make too much comments on what’s possible and where we can go at the end of the season, I only want to progress with the team in how we play. That’s my objective.”
Amakhosi are in a catch-22 regarding their match against The Magic. Lose, all hell will break loose as it would mean that the drought will stretch to four seasons. Win, and there won’t be much celebration as they’re expected to get a victory but also progress further in the tournament that gives the winner a place in the CAF Confederation Cup.
Middendorp will not take this match lightly. He will field his strongest XI possible.
The only notable change from the team that drew with Orlando Pirates in the Soweto Derby will be Bruce Bvuma replacing the cup-tied Daniel Akpeyi. Daniel Cardoso, who will play in front of Bvuma, urged his teammates to go all-out.
"We can’t take it lightly,” Cardoso said. “If you saw us against Tornado, we went in there a bit too relaxed. We thought we had won the game before it even started.
“We’re going (to play) against a similar team. They’re doing well. They knocked out Maccabi FC who are in the NFD and they’re sitting second on the log A lot is expected from us in this tournament.
We haven’t won any silverware in the last three seasons, and that’s not normal for us. But we don’t want to put too much pressure on us.”