“Everything we do is in order. If there is a baby crying in the house, it does not mean there are issues between the father and the mother. The issue of the captain does not mean that there is a crisis at the club. This chapter must be closed.”
With those words, Bobby Motaung probably thought he was drawing the great Kaizer Chiefs captaincy saga to a graceful conclusion.
The Amakhosi’s “football manager” is deluded of course. But that’s what happens when you’re the son of the Amakhosi’s founder, when your sister Jessica runs the marketing side of the nation’s biggest club and your currently-injured brother Kaizer Junior – arguably a better cricketer than footballer in his youth - is on the physio’s couch waiting to return to the lead role.
In fact, if you’re a Motaung, it must be hard to keep a grip on reality 41 years after the heroic Kaizer returned from the United States and took South African football by storm.
That Kaizer Motaung is a footballing colossus is not in dispute. That Tshintsha Guluva (rough translation: Confounder of Defenders) was unearthed as a 16-year-old prodigy by Orlando Pirates at the tender age of 16 is fact. That former West Ham star Phil Woosnam spotted him playing in Zambia in 1968 and took him to Atlanta Chiefs where he became a US All Star is the stuff of South African soccer history.
The question is : can the 67-year-old entrust the running of the club he established in 1970 to his children and still count on the unquestioning support of an estimated 14 million Amakhosi ?
Two weeks ago, when Chiefs captain Jimmy Tau was reported to have resigned the captaincy, Bobby told Robert Marawa’s excellent Discovery Sports Centre show on Metro FM that there was no problem, Jimmy was still the captain, he had NOT had a row with coach Vladimir Vermezovic and that “everything is normal. There is no story here”.
After the listless Telkom Knockout defeat against Platinum Stars over the weekend, an under-pressure VV emerged to tell us Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune would be elevated to the captaincy.
But just last season, the 24-year-old Khune admitted: “I'm still young and certainly not ready to be a captain. I still need two more seasons or so before I can say I'm ready. Right now, I joke around with everyone from youngsters to senior players.
“Now can you imagine if I come to training and start dishing out instructions to the very same youngsters I was joking with? They will think I'm mad because I was joking with them a few seconds ago. So for the next two years I need to cut down on the joking and playful ways before I can say I'm ready to be a Chiefs captain,”
Months later, Khune is the new on-field leader of the Amakhosi. Backed by a gathering of “four captains” available to the Amakhosi. Tau’s name is not among them. Distrust, disbelief, dissonance reign supreme. The club appear to be running rough-shod over the truth, with their faithful millions left to guess the reality.
Just what happened to Tau? Why Khune? On Monday, Tinashe Nengomasha, the teak-tough Zimbabwean, was appointed captain. A mere 24 hours later, Khune was installed, though he did not feature in VV’s “four captains”: Kaizer Junior, George Lebese, Nengomasha and Tlou Molekwane.
Now I am reliably informed Nengomasha will “probably” captain Chiefs in the League game against Platinum Stars this weekend as Khune needs another two weeks to recover from an untimely bout of pneumonia.
The club said the Khune decision had been taken after consultations between VV, his technical team and club management. No mention was made of Khune’s admission that he was too young for the job for at least another two years. Nor of his current ailment.
Last season Chiefs, winners of 78 trophies in those incredible 41 years since the Kaizer from Orlando East came home, saw arch-rivals Pirates win an unprecedented treble. In pre-season, Pirates picked up the Carling Black Label Cup to further upset their Sowetan rivals, ironically on the back of a glaring Khune penalty shoot-out miss. Some say you can still see his spot-kick in orbit over Johannesburg.
This season Chiefs are already out of two cups and adrift in the title race, questions are rightly being asked.
So Bobby stepped up to the plate at the club’s high-tension press conference on Wednesday and told us Khune was the right choice, that everything was running fine, that there had never been any dispute with Tau. He told us: "We have deliberated on this issue and where the story came from. But it is normal to have internal issues and where a player might disagree. Jimmy is just one of the 27 players in the club and available to do duty when called upon by the coach. He is contracted to Kaizer Chiefs."
Then Bobby produced his trump card. His surname.
With these words he destroyed any scrap of credibility he had left: “As for those who dream that Bobby Motaung must step down, that Bobby Motaung must go, it is a dream! Bobby Motaung goes nowhere. I was not appointed by ANC or IFP… I will be here as long as this company exists.
“I did not apply for this job, I did not submit a CV. My father invested his life in this club, this is a family business. You must understand that. We are all working to ensure Chiefs dominate.”
Yup. Like the school bully with the headmaster father. The wayward prince with the elderly regent as his protector. Nepotism at its worst. While the thousands of Kaizer Chiefs fans fork out their hard-earned clash to follow their team and buy the new gold-and-black striped “zebra” kit, the Motaung family are apparently impervious to outside pressure.
It can’t be right. Clearly, there was substance to the Tau story. And it’s plain Khune is being forced to take the captain’s armband with Kaizer Junior waiting in the wings to take charge when he’s fit. Not a bad choice, but increasingly difficult to sell to the success-hungry Amakhosi hordes.
Bobby went on to say: "We have lost two cups already and we are worried about that, and now we have to fight for the league and the remaining cup.”
With Platinum Stars back on the agenda in a league clash this weekend, he ended with: "Our message to our supporters is that let us give the coach a chance."
Your supporters? That faithful bunch who continually talk about Amakhosi rising to the occasion? Without the finger-waving millions, Bobby, Kaizer Chiefs would be nothing. The same can be said of every professional football club.
And if I were you, I’d be looking very carefully at this quote from VV on Wednesday when he was asked why the excellent Siphiwe Tshabalala was not considered for leadership: "Tshabalala still wants to go overseas. If you make him captain and then he leaves in January then what do you do?"
No fans, no Tshabalala, no club. Start preparing that CV, Bobby. Next time, you may need it.