JOHANNESBURG – The "yes" from George Maluleka was emphatic.
He said it twice, as if he was also trying to convince himself and not just the media delegation that descended upon Kaizer Chiefs’ Village in Naturena yesterday to witness Maluleka being handed the Absa Premiership Goal of the Month award for December.
He received the award for his strike against SuperSport United in coach Ernst Middendorp’s first match in charge. The German has brought more structure to Amakhosi but they’re still off the pace in the league race in seventh place, nine points behind leaders Bidvest Wits with 10 matches remaining.
Maluleka was quick in his response to whether he believes that Chiefs can realistically challenge for the championship.
“Yes! Yes! I still think that we can do it,” Maluleka said. “It’s going to go down to the last day, I think, once again. We believe that we’re still there. The whole team believes that. (If we don’t believe that we can challenge for the league), then why are we playing? We believe that we can (win the league).
Anything is possible. Everyone else is dropping points with draws. So we need to keep our eyes open as well, hopefully it will swing by our way.”
Chiefs’ last 10 matches consists mainly of encounters against teams in the bottom half of the log.
Polokwane City, who they visit on Saturday, and Matsatsantsa a Pitori are the only teams in the top eight that Amakhosi will face in the final stretch. This means their matches will be even harder, playing against teams who are fighting for their lives - like Maritzburg United and Free State Stars.
Maluleka has been reborn under Middendorp.
“I wouldn’t say that there’s a different George,” Maluleka said. “I am still doing the same things. I have been working hard. I would say that maybe there’s more focus, especially now that we’re at this stage of the season. We know what is possible to get and what is out there.
As a team we realise that it’s still possible. There are two trophies up for grabs. We’re going for that, until the last day we’re going to push on.”
The other trophy up for grabs is the Nedbank Cup. Tonight Chiefs will find out who they will face in the quarter-finals.
Only Chiefs and Wits among the remaining eight teams have lifted the Nedbank Cup.
“I would rather we meet any team now to see where we stand, to see if we really have a good chance of winning this,” Maluleka said. “I am not going to say any teams. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a PSL team or an NFD team, but if we want to win this in any case we have to be at our best.
Just bring anyone, put them in front of us and we’ll make sure that we put them aside to make sure that we go all the way.”