JOHANNESBURG - Baroka FC chairman Khurishi Mphahlele predicts that in the “next two to three years” Bakgaka will go into every competition, including the Absa Premiership, as favourites.
This isn’t a delusional prediction like the many Baroka made last season, after they gained promotion to the elite league, promising to win everything on offer and then graduate to the CAF Champions League.
Mphahlele’s prophecy comes from a sober mind, having seen his team go from fighting to avoid relegation only via the play-offs.
This season, however, they have proven to be early pacesetters - unbeaten after seven matches and sitting at No. 1 in the league.
“We have changed a lot from the team we were last season, from our thinking to how we do things,” Mphahlele said. “A lot of the mistakes we made were because of sentimental attachments and not seeking enough advice from people who had been at this level. But the hardships we endured made us a better team.
"In every league we have played in, from the SAB League to the PSL, it has been about trial and error until we succeed. That’s why in the next two to three years, we will go into every competition, including the league, as favourites because we would have learned enough.”
Mphahlele and all those associated with Baroka have lost the naivety they went with in the last campaign. Baroka, with the assistance of the Polokwane municipality, installed floodlights in their training pitch, something they didn’t have last season which hindered their preparations for night games.
“Excitement got the better of us after we gained promotion,” Mphahlele said. “We didn’t do the self-introspection that we should have done so that we could come into the PSL a stronger unit. We thought that if we could cruise to being No. 1 in the NFD, then we could finish in the top eight in the PSL.
"We also tried to please everybody. It wouldn’t have sat well with me if we had dropped some of the players that helped us gained promotion. We are mature in how we do business now.”
Mphahlele’s faith in the eccentric coach Kgoloko Thobejane is also behind the club’s bright start. Thobejane knows how to get the best out of his players and make them play for him. Baroka only lacked structure in the boardroom and in defence.
“When you are sinking, you try to grab onto anything that you believe will help you stay afloat,” Mphahlele said. “That’s what we did in the coaching department and we made some mistakes. Luckily we never fired Kgoloko, we just demoted him.
"But we realised he was better than some of the people we brought in, and we reinstated him. We then made him co-coach (with Milton Dlamini). That didn’t work because they were now fighting over power. We had two bulls in one kraal and the grass, the team, suffered. We decided to keep coach Kgoloko but empower him with the appointment of Doctor Khumalo as a technical director.”
Mphahlele argues that Bafana legend Khumalo brought the stability Baroka lacked in the boardroom and on the field.
“He changed how we think,” Mphahlele said. “We used to just come to training without preparing a programme or thinking much about what we would do. But that has changed. The technical team arrives two hours early to plan and the results are there for everyone to see.”