JOHANNESBURG - Steve Komphela didn’t take the bait on Thursday when asked if he was having a tough time planning for Kaizer Chiefs’ fixture against plucky Baroka FC because the general consensus was that their game plan is a little “unstructured”.
The Amakhosi coach instead took the opportunity to shower a side that had a close brush with relegation last season with praise, saying they are a much stronger outfit this time around and that was due to their maverick coach Kgoloko Thobejane and, perhaps, recently appointed technical director Doctor Khumalo, a Chiefs legend.
“I have no right to say they are predictable,” Komphela said ahead of the Glamour Boys hosting surprise joint log leaders Baroka at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.
“The way they play is their own choice and prerogative. We cannot put our noses in there. It’s full of energy and unpredictable as one could call it because being unpredictable is sometimes exactly how you win matches. You have to give them respect.”
Baroka coach Thobejane has been social media fodder with his post-match remarks, most notably when he said “football can kill you real death”, to an extent that it’s easy to play down the club’s chances of maintaining their current status as table toppers because of the character and personality of the man in charge.
But Komphela argued that the team the Limpopo outfit has put together for their sophomore year in the Premier League is simply full of quality. He would not mock Thobejane’s seeming inability to express himself during interviews.
“I like how you put it that other coaches feel superior to him (Thobejane). The other side is that the other coaches undermine him,” the Chiefs mentor explained. “If you have less respect for others, you undermine. We never do that, we have great respect for the man.
"I wish I could have said this some other time. The fact that you speak English better is no sign of intelligence. And the fact that you don’t speak English that well is no sign of a lack therefore.
"A man can be highly intelligent in an indigenous language, which should not be disrespected. A man can also be ordinary in a foreign language, but that should not earn them the respect. Football is a universal language.”
Komphela also had high praise for Khumalo, who joined Baroka as a technical director after his role at Chiefs had become unclear following his demotion from being the club’s assistant coach in Komphela’s first season.
“I am sure his influence there is also clear,” he said. “His contribution at Chiefs was immense. Most of his bread, his foundation was built by Chiefs. Unfortunately he had to move on. I am sure he will give a detailed report about how we play having been here for so long.”
Baroka look a team with slightly more maturity, both on an off the pitch, this season having had to fight to retain their PSL status in the play-offs at the end of their rookie campaign. There was also the chopping and changing of coaches, Thobejane being demoted and then reinstated again in a matter of weeks. So far they are stable.
“I think Morgan Mammila (Baroka CEO) and his directors did a great job assembling that team. It’s a strong team. They are highly competitive. It’s not by fluke. They have also managed to get some experience as well,” said Komphela, whose side could go top with a win and results elsewhere going Chiefs’ way.