Mbuyiselo Sambo will take charge of his first match as Chippa United coach on Saturday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - Spare a thought for Mbuyiselo Sambo. Just two seasons ago, he was in the heart of the Chippa United defence working hard to ensure their rearguard was not breached.

On Saturday at Orlando Stadium, Sambo will be taking a massive step in his fledgling coaching career - thrown into the deep end by club boss Chippa Mpengesi’s trigger happiness.

Granted, the Chilli Boys have been having a wretched time lately - the Eastern Cape outfit on a 10-match winless run that has got them into the relegation quagmire. And, while they are in the Nedbank Cup semi-final, there can be no denying their poor league form is cause for concern. Hence the decision to put coach Dan Malesela on “special leave”.

What is it that they say by the way? One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Sure Sambo would have learnt much from Malesela and would have probably preferred the apprenticeship to continue.

You don’t always get what you want in football, though, and Sambo has to man up quickly.

It is, after all, how many top coaches got started.

Pitso Mosimane, for instance, took over at SuperSport United after Bruce Grobellaar got sacked. That he is now a continental champion with multiple league titles and knockout trophies is common knowledge.

Steve Komphela is now at the helm of South Africa’s most supported team in the country having also started as a second-in-charge.

Sambo need not look too far for an example of making use of an opportunity when it presents itself.

On Wednesday Kaitano Tembo found himself having to be in charge of SuperSport United after coach Stuart Baxter took ill. The former defender guided Matsatsantsa to a surprise 1-0 victory over Bidvest and he will be in charge again tonight when they take on Kaizer Chiefs.

But how will the Chilli Boys respond to Sambo? After all, he was their teammate not so long ago. Will they respect him?

The answer to those questions can probably be found in how Sambo was as a player. I have a vivid memory of him from his time at Umtata Bucks.

Against Chiefs in a league match, Sambo scored a spectacular own goal that gifted Amakhosi victory. To say he was distraught would be an understatement. And the player then going by the name Wellington was still upset the morning after as he looked back to the match.

But he picked himself up in the next matches and continued to be the solid, yet clean, defender whose career longevity outlasted many of his peers.

One of the qualities that struck me about Sambo is his ability to put his point across and this will no doubt stand him in good stead as he strives to lead Chippa away from the relegation zone.

On the other hand, however, he has come across as being a bit on the gentle side and local soccer players are renowned to generally not respond well to such men. Then again, the late Thomas Madigage was a gentleman off the field but a beast of a coach inside the dressing room.

In a country where many former players - Mosimane, Komphela, Malesela, Gavin Hunt, Clinton Larsen to mention just a few - have gone on to become successful coaches, Sambo could be taking his first step towards adding his name to the list.

And he couldn’t have asked for a bigger stage to do so - against the Buccaneers.

Saturday Star

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