JOHANNESBURG – Steve Komphela’s bald head hides a secret that the beard and moustache he is growing gives away.
The two years the 50-year-old has spent in charge of Kaizer Chiefs have been so taxing that Komphela has developed grey hair.
“It’s a sign of wisdom,” he said. “You must check people who’ve gone through struggles, one way or the other, they have to wear salt and pepper.”
While Komphela “wears salt and pepper”, he is yet to wear a winners medal at a club synonymous with success in cup competitions.
That struggle to bring trophies to Naturena has put him at odds with the club’s fans who have called for his head a number of times. The two-season barren run under his tenure makes it vital for Chiefs to not only start on a positive note, but also finish with some form of silverware.
The MTN8 is the club’s first chance to end that dry spell, and that campaign begins when Amakhosi host SuperSport United at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.
Komphela’s biggest challenge will be to manage the players’ anxiety to win so that it doesn’t get the better of them, especially starting against the team that knocked them out of the Nedbank Cup last season and who are led by Eric Tinkler, who’s then-Cape Town City side eliminated Amakhosi in the first round of the MTN8.
“You need to stay very calm and live in the moment,” Komphela said. “Your emotions get carried by what you anticipate, and what you anticipate is not what you are going through.
“For us, it is important to live in the moment. You can’t think about the cup final before you play the first game.
“If you have problems of paying your debts with 30 days to come, does that mean from now and for the next 29 days, you won’t live? No. You have to live your life because one way or the other, the breakthrough will come.”
Komphela also believes that the club has reached a breakthrough in their discussions with George Lebese.
The Chiefs’ midfielder has been linked with a move to Mamelodi Sundowns, sparked by his declaration on social media that he just wants to play, regardless of which shirt he does it wearing.
His absence in the club’s pre-season friendlies has also fuelled speculation that he could be leaving Amakhosi.
“George is still with us,” Komphela said. “Not unless there is something that you know that I don’t. He will be at training tomorrow (Tuesday). He is committed to the team. There are times when we have conversations with George and ask ourselves, where is all of this coming from?
“But understanding the nature of the business, the nature of perspective and opinions, you can’t stop people from saying things that when you hear, you wonder where are they coming from.
“Sometimes it pains me as a person because as a person, I love football players. I love people I work with because before you lead them, you must love them.
“Now sometimes when certain things come, I don’t react to those things, but I go straight to the person involved to seek clarity.”