Katsande revels in Chiefs milestone
By Mukudzei Chingwere
Former Warriors captain Willard Katsande expressed his delight after leading Kaizer Chiefs to a memorable league victory against Highlands Park, on a day the South African Premiership football club was celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Despite being the captain of the team on a very significant day, Katsande’s legacy at the club is well documented, as he moves closer to the end of a glittering football career which has given him fame and fortune.
Katsande joined Amakhosi in August 2011, and has risen to become one of the most important players at the Naturena-based side.
This season the 33-year-old Zimbabwean and veteran South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune have the responsibility of leading the team on the field of play.
In the absence of injured Khune, Katsande was given the responsibility of captaining the side in one of their most memorable nights on Wednesday when Kaizer Chiefs celebrated their 50th birthday by putting the icing on the cake with an emphatic 3-0 win over Highlands Park at FNB Stadium in front of a mammoth crowd.
Star defender Eric Mathoho opened the scoring for Amakhosi with a superbly executed overhead kick.
The Soweto giants secured the victory courtesy of a brace in the second half from Leonardo Castro, a poacher’s finish in the 57th minute and a well-timed header in the 69th. Chiefs’ Zimbabwean talisman Khama Billiat missed Wednesday night’s match through injury.
Chiefs are now comfortable at the top of the Absa Premiership log with a six-point cushion over current champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
Celebrations continued after the match with a lap of honour and a gigantic cake was shared among players, club legends and some fans got a taste as well.
Speaking to The Herald from his base in Johannesburg, Katsande, who had a humble background, said leading the team on such a historic occasion had earned him a place in the club’s book of eternity.
“Nothing beats that feeling (leading the team on anniversary day) because last night (Wednesday) will go into the history books of the club.
“A poor boy from Mutoko captains Kaizer Chiefs, on a day the event was followed by millions (on an anniversary day of a club) with rich history, I am proud of myself.
“Even my late parents wherever they are I think they are happy and proud too,” said the former Warriors midfield enforcer.
Kaizer Chiefs have struggled of late and have had to watch Sundowns dominating the South African Premier League in the past few years.
But after some few changes to the core team and recruiting Zimbabwe’s talismanic forward Billiat, glamour seems to be returning to the Soweto giants.
They are six points clear of closest rivals — Sundowns — which means the destination of the league title is in their hands as the season enters the tipping point.
Katsande said this was a special year for Amakhosi which needs to be capped in the best possible way — winning the league’s ultimate prize.
“Yes, that is our main objective to win the big fish which is the league title and this year is special because we just turned 50 years old,” said the former Warriors skipper.
The Zimbabwean turn 34 this year and it appeared his days at the Naturena are numbered after a dip in form the previous season. However, the man who is known for his unbridled work ethic has managed to transform himself into a vital cog in the Chiefs set-up.
The extension of his contract is now a mere formality and is willing to spend three more years at the club before bringing down the curtain on an illustrious career with the South African club.
He attributed his rise in form to the fierce, continuous and ongoing competition of playing for one of the top clubs in South Africa.
“Competition makes you a better player and I am willing to stay here for the next three years because I need to leave a rich legacy,” said Katsande.
The Zimbabwe senior national team has a number of talented central midfielders at the moment who are led by Marvelous Nakamba, who is currently turning out for English Premiership side Aston Villa. The likes of Marshall Munetsi, Danny Phiri, Gerald Takwara, Butholezwe Ncube and Thabani Kamusoko are also doing well.
However, if calls for Katsande to come out of international retirement grow louder there will be justification given his exploits at club level.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean coach Norman Mapeza continued to wave his magic wand at South African Premiership side Chippa United leading them to another important victory over Black Leopards on Wednesday night.
A goal at the start of the game and one at the death saw Chippa United beat Black Leopards 2-1 in an Absa Premiership clash at the Thohoyandou Stadium.
It was the Chilli Boys’ fourth consecutive victory in the league as they continue to climb the South African Premiership table under the former FC Platinum coach. The Herald