Where to now for Middendorp and Zinnbauer?
In recent weeks there was a cloud of uncertainty that hung over Naturena, as doubts crept in over whether Chiefs would remian top of the standings for the remainder of the season - after drawing one match, winning one and losing one of their last three league outings. On Saturday, though, the Glamour Boys silenced their detractors in style, defeating their bitterest rivals Pirates through a solitary goal from Lebogang Manyama as they extended the gap at the top to seven points ahead of second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns, who have a game in hand.
For the Buccaneers, Saturday’s defeat dented what was looking like a fairy-tale ending to their season, where they could have enforced a late title success, having started the campaign on a disappointing note.
The Sea Robbers, who lost their first league game after a six-game winning streak this year, remain third on the standings with 39 points, nine behind Chiefs, who have a game in hand.
Football writer Mihlali Baleka, who attended the Soweto derby post-match press conference, below, gives the reactions from Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp and his Pirates’ counterpart Josef Zinnbauer on their season so far, plans for the remainder of the season and title aspirations.
Season so far
Middendorp: “I was always smiling on the fact that the other teams said that they don’t want the championship, they want this and that. No, we had a clear mandate from the beginning, early in August last year. I know they were (fake) smiles all over, what’s this crazy man doing, ‘how can they want to win the league?’ Even other coaches were looking at me, saying ‘how can a club pressurise the team in such a way?’ I said let’s start by doing stuff differently and when you do that, you’ll have different results.”
Zinnbauer: “It’s not like we were first, but we were eighth on the log standings and 21 points behind Chiefs. But the season is not yet finished, and we are not speaking about the title, because I think Sundowns and other teams have a chance against Chiefs. Our focus is next season. Coming to South Africa to join Pirates, things were not going okay. Now we have a lot of work that we’ve done and still need to do. We’ve played against an experienced Chiefs’ team, and I am not a magician, where we could have just won 1-0 against Chiefs.”
Plans going forward
Middendorp: “I believe that it’s important how you handle the matches against the so-called teams that are not in the chasing pack for the league title.”
Zinnbauer: “We are on a good run. We’ll continue to improve. We have young players such as Kabelo Dlamini who came on and needed the experience. We probably needed a little bit of time to get big points, but now our job as coaches is to get the players up and get their confidence back. I was hoping that I could give back something to the supporters for their overall support in the last few weeks, but it wasn’t to be. Our focus now is to improve the team and set a target for next season.”
Middendorp: “We have our fate in our hands. In fact, we had it for the last seven months. Our target has been the league, and the other one (Coach of the Month awards) is okay. But it doesn’t bring you anything, so let’s prepare for the next game against AmaZulu here at FNB.”
Zinnbauer: “We’ll focus on the game because it will be the important one. Our target now is to improve the squad for next season. We want to win games, including in the derby. So in the next game we want three points. The games against Sundowns and Wits will also be tough, but the focus is on the next game Golden Arrows.”@MihlaliBaleka