JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs’ longest serving member is excited about the new era that’s upon the club and he revealed why the previous regime finished three seasons without a trophy.
Itumeleng Khune, who has been a part of Chiefs’ first team for 17 years after graduating from their development ranks, has experienced many highs at Amakhosi - lifting every trophy on offer in the country as well as being crowned Footballer of the Year in 2013. But that success feels like a lifetime ago following three seasons without a trophy, something that’s never happened in Khune’s time at the club.
To address that, Amakhosi have hired coach Giovanni Solinas as Steve Komphela’s replacement with the mandate of restoring the Glamour Boys’ dignity and to bring back the glory days. “It’s important that we get results to move away from what happened in the last three seasons,” Khune said.
“We have to play entertaining football and we have to go back to winning trophies. That’s our culture and we as players told ourselves that we don’t want to be remembered as the generation that won trophies and broke records for not winning trophies. We’ve tasted many victories and we won trophies under coach Stuart Baxter. He left and we were struggling under coach Steve because a lot of us couldn’t adjust to what he wanted from us as players. But with the new coach, coach Solinas, hopefully things will turn around.”
The Italian coach doesn’t have a rich history of winning major titles. He has spent most of his career hopping from one club to the next without achieving much or even staying that long. That could change with Chiefs as the club is renowned for showing patience towards their coaches and offering a healthy working environment. What should help the 50-year-old is that the players themselves are tired of watching other teams lift trophies. Solinas just needs to direct that energy in the right direction and if he can infuse it with the beautiful football Free State Stars played under him, the two will form a winning combination.
“He is a very good coach,” Khune said. “He came in and was introduced to us (on Friday night) and he told us his philosophy and how he wants us to play, on and off the ball. We will respect it, adjust to it and we will do what he says we must do as players. All we want is results and to turn things around. We have been under pressure for the last three seasons. We are all aware of that, that we have to change the situation we find ourselves in. We’re looking forward to the season ahead.”
Solinas’ first match in charge will be on Saturday if he get his work permit on time. Amakhosi face Mamelodi Sundowns in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup at FNB Stadium. Solinas will then have just over two weeks to fine tune what he picked up from that match as Chiefs start their league campaign against the reigning league champions on August 4.
“We’ve all been playing for years and we’ve been coached by different coaches. We have adapted to different philosophies (so it’s not an issue that Solinas arrived at the club this late in our pre-season),” Khune said. “It is our responsibility as senior players to help the young ones to also adapt. We just have to go to the season, face the challenge, get results and win trophies. We’re all thirsty for success. We haven’t been celebrating for the last three seasons so it’s very important that we set our minds on bringing the glory days back.”