JOHANNESBURG – The Ambitious Baroka FC chairman, Khurishi Mphahlele, has set Wedson Nyirenda a realistic target, which could be a masterstroke under a coach who is renowned for working miracles.
Mphahlele and Bakgaga have dropped their grandiose proclamations, like vowing to win the Absa Premiership in their first season in the Premier Division and then compete in the Caf Champions League two years into topflight football. Their maiden season in the elite league back in 2016/17 humbled Baroka as they were almost relegated after a bright start.
They learnt and scaled down on the rhetoric but coach Kgoloko Thobejane, who was unceremoniously dumped last season, continued to talk big until his exit. Thobejane has been replaced by a man who can actually take Baroka to continental football and give them their first trophy.
“We don’t want to struggle. That’s his mandate. We must be able to play good football and we must be able to make our people happy,” Mphahlele said.
The Zambian-born coach is renowned for performing miracles akin to turning water into wine. He broke records in his stints in Zambia and Mozambique. He led Zanaco FC to their first appearance in the group stage of a continental competition, the 2010 Caf Confederation Cup after leading Zesco United to their first league title in 2007. His most remarkable feat was guiding Ferroviario da Beira to their first Mozambican league title in 92 years.
“I am just gifted with that ability of turning things around,” Nyirenda said. “I don’t know how it happens. It’s God’s favour. With good co-operation, everyone working together and pushing in the same direction, we are going to achieve greater things than we imagined. Anything can happen. I have managed teams that were not rated (as championship contenders), teams like Zesco United and I won many things with them.”
His third match in the league, on August 14, will be an emotional one for the Zambian. That day Baroka FC host his former team, Kaizer Chiefs. The former Amakhosi striker, who is still in contact with Chiefs boss Kaizer Motaung, has previously said that he would like to return to the country to manage the Soweto giants.
That hasn’t happened. He’ll just meet some familiar faces at Amakhosi and try to outsmart them. But Chiefs aren’t the only side that Nyirenda is looking forward to coming up against.
“I can’t promise to move mountains. But I can just say that people will see a big difference,” Nyirenda said.
“They will see good football and they will see a team with a character of a champion. My biggest joy in coming here is that I’ll be mingling with people like Pitso (Mosimane). I respect him so much. He has done great things. He is the son of the soil, a son of Africa.
There’s also Micho (Sredojevic) at (Orlando) Pirates, (Luc) Eymael at Free State Stars and Gavin Hunt, who I played with at Hellenic. He was my captain. Those guys have done great things in the PSL. I just want to join that bandwagon.
"They have inspired me. This is the time now to rub shoulders with them. We have seen each other from a distance when I was doing my own thing in Zambia at club level and the national team.”