By Robson Sharuko
It’s an iconic South African institution, with a strong romantic attachment to Zimbabwean footballers. A bond, which was first established 46 years ago, when a genius called Ebson “Sugar’’ Muguyo, arrived in their stable.
And, for more than four decades, Kaizer Chiefs have provided a home, for some of the finest Warriors.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of Muguyo’s first full season, at the Amakhosi, in 1976, in which he scored 26 goals, 18 of them coming in the league, while eight were in Cup matches.
Even though he was only at Chiefs, for five years, with his time there plagued by persistent knee problems, Muguyo soared to such legendary status, he was named the 12th greatest Amakhosi player, of all-time.
The iconic forward became the first Chiefs player to score a hat-trick, in a Soweto Derby showdown against Orlando Pirates, in a BP Top 16 semi-final replay, on December 3, 1975.
The Amakhosi won that match 5-1.
Muguyo laid the foundation, for a very strong relationship which has seen the likes of Rabson Muchichwa, Tinashe Nengomasha, Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat and Willard Katsande thrive at the Amakhosi.
Liberty Masunda, Ovidy Karuru, Kingstone Nkhatha, Onismor Bhasera, Lincoln Zvasiya, Abbas Amidu, Matthew Rusike, Thomas Sweswe and Zhaimu Jambo have also played for Chiefs.
In January 2012, the Amakhosi even had half-a-dozen Zimbabwean players, in the wake of their acquisition of Amidu, on their payroll.
Today, Billiat and Katsande remain at the club but, for the first time since they were formed, on January 7, 1970, there are genuine fears they could be dragged into a fight to avoid relegation.
It’s something which, in the past, could not even have been expected to be part of any sober conversation, given the way the most supported football team in South Africa, have been such a dominant force, on the domestic front.
Their cabinet has the highest number of trophies, among all the top-flight clubs, in the South African top-flight league, which include 13 league titles, including four, won in the era of the Premiership.
With an estimated 16 million fans, Chiefs consider themselves the most supported football club, south of the Sahara, although, it’s hard to really provide scientific data, to back such claims.
However, what can’t be disputed is that they have provided South African football with some of its finest sons — Patrick “Ace’’ Ntsoelengoe was probably the greatest of them all.
Doctor Khumalo, John “Shoes’’ Moshoeu, Steve Komphela, Shaun Bartlett, Lucas Radebe, Gary Bailey and Neil Tovey all played at a very high level.
But, after a 1-2 defeat, on Wednesday, to bottom club, Karuru’s Black Leopards, Chiefs find themselves in a real relegation dogfight, with just two league matches to play, in the season.
While the Leopards, with 22 points, cannot overhaul the Chiefs’ tally of 30, in the battle for the automatic slot for relegation, the Amakhosi could face the possibility of playing in a relegation play-off.
After all, the other teams, Chippa United (25), Stellenbosch (27), Washington Arubi’s TTM (29) and Maritzburg United (29) have the potential of overhauling the Chiefs tally.
With just 30 points, from 28 matches, Chiefs have exactly half the number of points, which Mamelodi Sundowns have right now, even though the champions have played one game less than the Amakhosi. With just six league wins, only bottom clubs — Black Leopards, Chippa and Stellenbosch, with five victories each — have fewer wins than the Amakhosi, in the championship race.
In a season of contrasts, Chiefs are, somehow, the only club to beat Sundowns, in the league championship this season, winning 2-1 on April 25.
They could even be crowned champions of Africa, this year.
They are in the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League, for the first time, in their history, but dark clouds are converging, on the horizon, and even the experts are now worried:
Jonty Mark (Football Editor,
“As strange as it seems, there remains the possibility that Kaizer Chiefs could win the CAF Champions League this season and be relegated to the GladAfrica Championship.
“Both scenarios are highly unlikely, with Amakhosi by far the underdogs among the four Champions League semi-finalists, and with enough sides between them and a relegation play-off spot to make finishing 15th in the DStv Premiership, highly unlikely.
“Even then, Amakhosi would have the lifeline of the play-offs to cling to.
“And yet, it remains a severe embarrassment for Chiefs that, with two games left to play in the season, they are even in a position where relegation is a possibility.
“Such are the variables in the table, meanwhile, that Amakhosi could also still qualify for next season’s MTN8. They will probably need to win both of their final two games, and hope other results go their way, with TS Galaxy, Baroka FC, and Bloemfontein Celtic (currently in 8th) all ahead of them in the table.
“Nothing will be decided, in terms of relegation or the MTN8 until Wednesday at the earliest, when the penultimate fixtures all take place simultaneously.
“There are likely to be some sweaty palms in the corridors of Naturena until then, with Chiefs, even if they avoid the drop, well-set for a worst ever season in the Premier Soccer League era.
“To put it in plain terms, Amakhosi are a cavernous 30 points behind champions Mamelodi Sundowns, just a season after running Masandawana so close for league honours.’’
Garrin Lambley (www.thesouthafrican.com)
“Granted it’s unlikely to happen, but South African football heavyweights Kaizer Chiefs could still be relegated this season, that’s what the stats show — and stats don’t lie.
“The truth of the matter is that if Kaizer Chiefs can lose to bottom-of-the-log Black Leopards, they can certainly lose their two remaining DStv Premiership matches to teams ranked above them in the standings.
While Kaizer Chiefs can’t finish bottom of the log, they can slip to 15th place which would see them engage in the dreaded promotion-relegation battle with the second and third finishers from the GladAfrica Championship this season.
“Unless of course the PSL comes to Kaizer Chiefs’ rescue and change the way things happen.’’ The Herald