JOHANNESBURG – Kaitano Tembo has moved up and down so much at SuperSport that you get dizzy just hearing him talk about it.
The Zimbabwean started coaching in the club’s development structures upon hanging up his boots in 2006 after spending seven years as a player for Matsatsantsa a Pitori.
He was promoted to the first team as Gavin Hunt’s assistant coach in 2012 to replace the late Thomas Madigage who had left to join Bafana Bafana.
But Tembo went back to the junior ranks to coach the Under-19s and then the reserve team following the appointment of Gordon Igesund who roped in Serame Letsoaka as his No2.
What’s been consistent though is Tembo being SuperSport’s go-to-guy to hold the fort in the interim while the club goes from one coach to the next.
“What has kept me going is patience,” Tembo said. “You’ve got to be patient in life because everything that comes easily doesn’t last but what you work for, for a long time, lasts long.
“I didn’t want to put myself under unnecessary pressure by rushing into things. I don’t want to be a fly-by-night coach.
“I want to have a long career; to achieve that you have to go through every step in your progress. That means not getting carried away when people say you deserve to be head coach.
“You have to be truthful to yourself and honest in your analysis of where you are. I want to be a stable coach, letting his work do the talking.”
Tembo has been appointed as the club’s interim coach for the umpteenth time after Eric Tinkler’s abrupt resignation.
Tinkler was the fifth coach Tembo worked for as assistant, starting from Hunt to Cavin Johnson, Igesund after Letsoaka’s departure and Stuart Baxter. But it’s his last coach as a player who inspired Tembo to venture into this thankless job.
“I have always been passionate about coaching,” he says. “But Pitso Mosimane ignited the spark towards the last years of my career as a player.
“He would be in Rustenburg, watching a match there and he'd call me and ask ‘can you please record such and such match for me? I want to look at this and that when I come back’.
“He would then quiz me on the aspects of the game to ensure I didn’t just record it, but also watched it and analysed it.
“He made me see football in a different light. That grew into a habit, him asking me to record games and us talking about it afterwards.
“He would tell me to watch (2006 Fifa World Player of the Year) Fabio Cannavaro to see how I should play and position myself as a centreback.
“I then worked with Gavin and the two (Hunt and Mosimane) are a lot similar in how they push their players and the desire to win.
“Maybe the difference is the approach but the philosophy is the same.
“Stuart also helped me improve as a coach. He called me when he was in hospital. He simply said 'I trust you and I know the team's in the right hands'.”
The 47-year-old has to prove to everyone that SuperSport is in the right hands and he has what it takes to guide Matsatsantsa to new heights should he be given the job on a permanent basis.
SuperSport’s chief executive Stanley Matthews said Tembo’s name is at the top of the list of Tinkler’s possible replacements.
But the Zimbabwean must earn it. He has a tough job of taking a bunch of demoralised, tired players flirting with relegation and at least finish in the top eight with them.
And he's proved himself before, guiding SuperSport to their first appearance in the knockout stage of the Caf Confederation Cup.
“I've always put the team first,” Tembo says.
“It helps that I've been here for a long time, I understand the dynamics, and why we find ourselves in this situation.
“I am not doing this to market myself for the job, but I am doing this to put a club that’s in my heart back where it belongs.”