JOHANNESBURG - The title of head coach doesn’t mean much to Kaitano Tembo, just as long as he continues to serve SuperSport United like he has done for 19 years in various positions.
The club's chief executive, Stan Matthews, hinted that Tembo will occupy the hot seat on a permanent basis for the 2018/19 season. SuperSport have struggled to find Eric Tinkler’s replacement since his resignation in March, but the Tshwane side only started looking for a coach in earnest at the end of the last campaign.
Tembo assumed the role of caretaker coach for the umpteenth time and the management backed him. He finished in the top eight with a team which was fighting to avoid relegation when he took over.
Another feather on Tembo’s cap is that he took Matsatsantsa to the knockout stage of the Caf Confederation Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
Despite that success, SuperSport have been reluctant to officially give Tembo the job on a permanent basis even though they have said that they back him. The Zimbabwean has served them well in the various posts he has held, from player to coaching the academy, the Under-19s, reserve team and assisting in the first team while also being the go-to man when they lose a coach.
“The faith that the club has shown in me means a lot because it’s not always easy to be at a club this long,” Tembo said. “All I can do is appreciate and repay the trust, confidence and respect the club has in me. It’s very important that I always do my job properly, do it as if it’s my last day.
I am not really concerned about the position (of head coach). For me what’s important is the now. I don’t want to disappoint the bosses who have shown confidence in me. I know that I am not under any pressure but at the same time I am under pressure from myself to do well and not let down the club and the players who have responded well to my philosophy and leadership.”
So has the club told Tembo that he will be the head coach?
“It’s just business as usual for me. It’s not really important for me what title I go by. I have been focusing on the job that I have been given. I have been in charge,” Tembo said.
The Zimbabwean has been in charge of SuperSport’s pre-season since their return on June 25. Tembo’s task is to build on their success from last season that saw the club win the MTN8 and reach the final of the Confederation Cup. That success, however, was dampened by flirting with relegation.
“If we were any other club, we could have gone to panic mode and have a complete overhaul of the team,” Tembo said. “But because we were very aware of what was happening in the team and why we remained calm. We played a lot of games. We knew that was going to take its toll on the players. Fatigue crept in.
It’s difficult to come out of that, you’re struggling and players are tired. The players needed a rest. We understood the situation and that’s why we made only a few additions to the squad.
We believe that we have a balanced squad and we can compete with the top three teams.”