JOHANNESBURG – It was deep in the bowels of the Peter Mokaba Stadium last week that Kaizer Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas lost a few admirers.
Frustrated that his men had blown an opportunity to build on their impressive 3-0 victory in the MTN8 quarter-finals at home against Free State Stars from a few days earlier to set up a two-legged affair with reigning champions SuperSport United (the first leg is this Sunday), the Italian mentor astonishingly claimed that Amakhosi players were exhausted - just four games into the new season.
These comments, made moments after a 1-1 draw away to Baroka FC at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, still haunt the Chiefs coach.
He’s tried to shake them off, but to no avail again yesterday as he faced the media to talk about how he plans to end the Glamour Boys’ three-year trophy drought by first putting SuperSport to the sword and have one foot in the final.
“I was not complaining,” Solinas said. “I just think players are human beings and need to recover instead of playing games every two or three days like it has been the case in this league. I think we have the players to manage the schedule because we are Chiefs, but I always have to assess the players every morning after each game to see if they can play.”
Indeed Amakhosi are beginning to look like a side that can handle what is going to be a congested fixture - but only later in the season when they begin their CAF Confederation Cup journey while juggling the domestic programme.
This week Chiefs signed a defender in Mario Booysen as well as forward Lebogang Manyama, and they have also added Godfrey Walusimbi to their list of new recruits, although the club hasn’t officially confirmed the Ugandan versatile players’ move from Kenya’s Gor Mahia.
“We need a big squad,” said Solinas, whose only win as Chiefs coach has come in the MTN8, the win against Stars two weeks ago.
“Chiefs is a club that always has to compete for trophies, every trophy. We can’t choose which games we want to win. Even draws are not good enough for this club.
“We start to play in the Confederation Cup soon and we are going to need all these players. It is important to have a balance so we can rotate, especially after we have maybe travelled 10 hours in the continent to play a team in Algeria for instance, where the weather conditions won’t be the same as here. We will have to adjust.”
This was Solinas addressing the future. But he must tackle what is in front of him at the moment to win back some support from the fans, although, by the coach’s own admission, SuperSport will be incredibly difficult to beat.
“My opponent is strong and it shows because they have won their last three games, beating AmaZulu, Orlando Pirates and Bidvest Wits. My counterpart (Kaitano Tembo) is a fantastic coach and very good technically,” Solinas said.
“I expect a physical battle, but we also have good players. Unfortunately the new players are not ready yet because their fitness still needs work.”