Kaitano Tembo not only dedicated winning the MTN8 trophy to his grief-stricken striker Thamsanqa Gabuza‚ but to all the coaches he’s worked with and learned the ropes from before he was appointed as head coach of SuperSport United.
For the former combative Zimbabwean international defender‚ this is his maiden senior trophy of his coaching career after he narrowly lost on penalties to Benni McCarthy’s Cape Town City in the same tournament last year.
SuperSport beat Highlands Park 1-0 at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday night in what was the club’s third successive top eight final appearance‚ having also won it in 2017 with Eric Tinkler‚ who was assisted by Tembo‚ at the helm.
The top eight trophy was third that SuperSport have won since they were formed in 1994 and it is the seventh piece of silverware they’ve collected in eleven finals they’ve contested in recent years in the South African PSL era.
Tembo‚ who rose from the lower structures at SuperSport to eventually assume the head coach role‚ mentioned three former Bafana Bafana coaches: Pitso Mosimane‚ Gordon Igesund‚ Stuart Baxter and Bidvest Wits mentor Gavin Hunt‚ as some of those who have played a vital role in both his playing and coaching career.
“I’ve worked with a lot of coaches‚” said the 49-year-old Tembo after Bradley Grobler’s header on the stroke of half-time gave his team victory.
“Throughout when I was the assistant coach I always made sure that I support whoever I worked with and I learned as much as I can. I’ve worked with Gavin Hunt‚ I’ve worked with Gordon Igesund‚ worked with coach Pitso and I’ve worked with Stuart Baxter.
“I believe in having mentors who I can pick a call and say I’m going to call you. Now I can even call Stuart at any time. I can call him when I need help on 1‚ 2‚ 3 on how do I deal with situations. He’s always there to help me because he’s been there‚ he’s seen it.
“I can speak to Gavin any time regarding players. I can speak to coach Pitso and I can speak to coach Gordon Igesund because there’s that trust which was built in all these years. They trust and they believe in me. I also thanked them because without them I will not be where I am today.
“Sometimes you learn from bad situations and you learn from good situations as well. That has happened throughout my career up to now.”
Touching on how they won the match against a Highlands Park side that attacked them from the first whistle‚ Tembo admitted they didn’t have a good start but that didn’t matter because they managed to strike at the right time. “Ronwen (Williams‚ the goalkeeper) kept us in the game. They could have scored early. One on one with the goalkeeper and Ronwen‚ I think that’s why he’s Bafana Bafana’s number one‚” said Tembo.
“We knew that we needed to be a little bit disciplined because Highlands Park is a very hard working team‚ organised as well disorganised because they apply man-marking in certain areas.
“So we needed to apply a little bit of surprise in terms of our movement. I think the moment we did that we scored the goal where Tebza (Teboho Mokoena) just went through the channel and put in a cross and we score from that. I think we scored at the right time. That really shocked them.”
Tembo further highlighted Gabuza’s role in coming back to help in defending Highlands’ aerial treat.
“We nullified their threat which is a long throw and again Gabuza played a huge role there because we put him on (Mthobi) Mvala because Mvala scores most of his goals with his head‚” said Tembo.
“So we knew if we can nullify that he was not going to be effective for them and Gabuza was very much instrumental. Even on set plays‚ corner kick and free kicks‚ Gabuza was very instrumental and we defended very well.”
Tembo also dedicated the win and the cup to striker Gabuza, describing him as a warrior and a hard worker who worked hard since joined United at the start of the season.
“I think I am a little bit emotional but not because of the game but the sad news I heard after the game. There is something that Gabuza did that I didn’t expect him to do and I don’t encourage him to do that. But he did it for the badge and for the team,” Tembo said.
“This is what happened, he lost his son on Monday and he never told anyone in the club and the funeral was on Thursday and he didn’t attend the funeral because he didn’t want to upset the camp.”
“For me it just killed everything, I see someone who is committed, who a lot of players can learn from him. For someone to play like that at the back of what happened I dedicate this cup to him.”— The Sowetan