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Khama, Katsande battling relegation?

Have Khama Billiat and Willard Katsande been sucked into a humiliating relegation dogfight in South Africa?

Khama Billiat and Willard Katsande (Pictures by Kaizer Chiefs FC)
Khama Billiat and Willard Katsande (Pictures by Kaizer Chiefs FC)

Well, that’s the embarassing reality of where Kaizer Chiefs find themselves, right now, in one of their worst seasons, on the domestic front.

The Amakhosi’s ninth place is, somewhat misleading, in what is a very tight and congested bottom half of the PSL table, this season

As the season heads into the final three weeks, Chiefs find themselves just five points above the relegation zone.

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The Amakhosi are home to Zimbabwean stars, Khama Billiat and Willard Katsande.

Chiefs’ concerns have been compounded in the past week after losing to two relegation-threatened sides — TTM and Chippa United – as well as drawing with Bloemfontein Celtic.

After the dust had settled on some frenetic PSL action in order to clear the schedule for this weekend’s Nedbank Cup final, Chiefs (with 29 points) remained in ninth spot.

They are just three points behind TS Galaxy in eighth but were at the same time sucked closer towards a relegation battle.

Both Baroka FC (29 points) and Bloemfontein Celtic (27 points) are in direct striking distance of Amakhosi and could potentially leapfrog them in the next round of fixtures.

Stellenbosch FC, Maritzburg United and TTM (in 14th spot, just above the drop zone) are not much further behind, (all on 25 points).

Maritzburg and TTM both have a game in hand on the Amakhosi which means they too could quite quickly move above the Glamour Boys.

In the 15th spot, and currently heading for the relegation/promotion play-offs, Chippa United have played the same number of games as Chiefs.

The Chilli Boys have actually been in pretty good form, of late, and are looking determined to make a real fight of it.

So, while it may help Chiefs that there are a handful of clubs below them, and Black Leopards are rooted firmly to the foot of the table, occupying the automatic relegation spot, nothing can be taken for granted.

Complicating things for the Amakhosi is the CAF Champions League.

They play Tanzanian side Simba SC, in two of their next four matches, which will take up energy, while there is always the risk of injury, and the general distraction of playing in a crunch double-header quarter-final.

However, seemingly improbable, the possibility remains that Gavin Hunt’s side could play in the Champions League final but still face a battle for the Premiership survival.

Chiefs’ final four domestic league encounters are against Swallows FC (home), Black Leopards (away), Golden Arrows (home) and TS Galaxy (away).

There is no guarantee they could win any of them. Meanwhile, the new Bafana Bafana coach appear to have thrown in the towel, conceding the team will not make it to the 2022 World Cup finals.

Belgian coach, Hugo Broos, was unveiled as the substantive Bafana Bafana coach, this week, and his first World Cup qualifier is against the Warriors of Zimbabwe, in Harare, in September.

His appointment seemingly has all the makings of a long-term project, rather than a short-term fix, aimed at getting South Africa to the 2022 World Cup.

For starters, it seems Broos will get a free hit at the World Cup qualifiers, and he pretty much said as much himself, in his first address to the media.

“After South Africa did not qualify for the AFCON, this is the moment to start to rebuild a younger team — which may have some difficulties to qualify for the next World Cup — but will be ready maybe to play an important role one year later in AFCON,’’ he said.

It would certainly make no sense to give Broos a five-year contract, and then fire him after failing to take Bafana to the World Cup, after just six qualifying games.

Even more so, when considering that South Africa are in the same group as Ghana, who only a few months ago, beat them to qualify for the next AFCON.

The other two sides in the group, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, will be no push-overs either and the hopes of Bafana going to Qatar next year are starting to look pretty remote.

As much as it will hurt South African football fans, theoretically, it is the best decision.

The country can’t keep hoping for short term fixes, and can’t keep chopping and changing coaches each time they don’t qualify for a tournament, however painful that is.

There needs to be continuity, a longer-term plan needs to be in place.

But while this approach makes sense in the longer run, it will remain to be seen if Broos is the right man for this job.

For one thing, he’s 69-years-old, and would be 74 in five years’ time.

Will he have the energy, enthusiasm and commitment to face up to all the challenges that will come his way?

And will he have the full backing of SAFA, and of the PSL clubs?

Will he be able to choose the best options when it comes to South Africa’s players based overseas?

It’s one thing talking about an injection of youth, and it’s not the first time a Bafana coach has come in and taken this angle.

But, it’s another thing altogether to implement that — it goes back to the question of the football pyramid in South Africa — much more must be done at the grass roots and youth team levels — both in terms of players and coaches, to ensure a better selection pool.

In short, the Bafana Bafana job is only the tip of the iceberg, there’s a whole lot more that needs fixing and Broos’s proclamation he will build a youthful team, at this point seems more like lip service, because it’s something that has been heard many times before.

And, it never really materialises. Goal.com.