|Two Many Chiefs: YeYe and Tower train with Bafana|
Kaizer Chiefs proudly unveiled six-and-a-half new signings for the 2012-13 season when they unveiled Mulomowandau Mathoho’s No3 shirt… but not the towering Bafana Bafana centre-back himself.
While the haggling with Bloemfontein Celtic over “Tower” goes on… and on… and on… let’s take a quick look at the half-a-dozen new Chiefs currently training with new boss Stuart Baxter – who admits he played no part in helping Bobby Motuang choose his reinforcements after South Africa’s “biggest” club finished fourth in the PSL last season.
We already knew about young Amazulu goalkeeper Nhlanhla “Brilliant” Khuzwayo, who will get a replica of Itumeleng Khune’s No1 jersey and then try to make it his. Khuzwayo was not “officially unveiled” either - because he was in goal for Neil Tovey’s Thanda Royal Zulu during their devastating 3-0 defeat against Chippa United at Richard’s Bay yesterday.
Then there’s the talented No5, Siboniso Gaxa, released after a successful spell with Belgian club Lierse, and No8 Kingston Nkhatha, signed for a reputed R3m from continental crusaders Black Leopards. We also knew about their new No10, Siyabonga Nkosi returning to the club aged 30, after a spell in Europe and Durban. Was he really the sharpest of the Golden Arrows last season?
We’ve got the more modest No18, Kgotso Moleko, the right-back from Bloemfontein Celtic who impressed new boss Stuart Baxter on the first day of pre-season on Monday and signed on the spot.
Even further down the numerical pecking order, we find No28 Sakhile “Ghaba” Hlongwa, an Umlazi-born striker who spent last season at Nedbank Cup minnows Ethekwini Coastal FC. His old youth coach has been in touch, claims he’s a top goal-getter despite modest stats.
And way down the order, there’s Morgan Gould, the SuperSport United and Bafana centre-back who will wear No83. Now he IS impressive. And ideally suited to taking the captaincy in a club proven to be devoid of any real leadership on the pitch last season.
Which just goes to show, numbers mean nothing. And neither do shirts. As the twitterers so forcefully point out, parading a jersey rather than the bloke himself at the swanky Thaba Ya Batswana conventon centre is laughable. Bloemfontein Celtic must be laughing… or crying.
It was left to general manager Bobby Motuang’s sister Jessica, the family business’s Marketing Director and glamorous daughter of Chief’s founder Kaizer to tell us about Tower’s No3 jersey, which wasn’t doing much explaining.
She simply stated the obvious: “I was unveiling the jersey, I was not unveiling the player. But I'm confident that Mathoho will be a Chiefs player by the start of the season.
"It is a work in progress. We are talking to Celtic, we are working 24/7 to land his signature. We have agreed terms with the player and his agent. And the player has made it clear he wants to come to Chiefs. We will make sure we come out tops on this issue and make sure that he dons the black and gold this season.
“We know Edward Manqele (the former Free State Stars top-scorer lured away by Sundowns) also said that he wanted to play for us but it didn't work but this issue is different and the club is confident we can land him by July 1."
The gorgeous Jessica also confirmed the two DKs, Doc Khumalo and Donald Khuze, will continue to support the new coach. Khumalo, though he was barely mentioned at the press conference, said: “I’ve had a face to face with Mr Baxter, he is the right man for the job.” Great stuff, Doc.
Arthur Zwane, the third caretaker coach in the tricky triumvirate appointed after Vladimir Vermezovic’s hasty departure late last season, has “already started working with the development of players”.
Baxter, the former Bafana coach who falsified his CV when questioned by Star football writer Jonty Mark after his appointment three months ago, admits he had absolutely no part in selecting these new players (nor, presumably, Mathoho’s shirt) though he does claim he was “in constant contact” with Bobby throughout the off-season wheeler-dealing: "I was not the one who scouted all the players, but there were on-going conversations by telephone. I'm very happy with the technical team that we've got.”
On the day Sundowns presented us with a new team manager – Mike Ntombela returns to the club, replacing Michael Manzini – and Orlando Pirates promoted Simphiwe Ngwenya to “second assistant coach” after 12 years of working with Augusto Palacios, Chiefs might not have achieved quite what they set out to with the big announcement at Thaba Ya Batswana.
Jessica insisted: “We have signed players who we hope will help us achieve our goals this season. We want to win trophies.” Unfortunately Jessica, players lift silverware. You can hardly even polish a trophy with a No3 jersey.
But with Tim Sukazi, Tower’s agent, appealing to the nation’s constitution and insisting footballers are not “slave labour”, perhaps it’s not worth Sundowns getting shirty about Mathoho’s move. Celtic will have to settle for the Amakhosi’s R5m rather than the Braziliant offer of R7m plus two of their many surplus squad members. What choice do they have?
And reports that Patrice Motsepe’s hard-working Trott Moloto immediately stepped in and offered to double Mathoho’s shirt number to six are clearly just mischief making from former Fleet Street journalists who think they are oh, so clever.
The important point is this: Mulomowandau Mothoho has made a brave stand, insisting on joining Chiefs rather than adding his name to the long list of top young players who disappear at Sundowns (we can only hope Manqele is not just the latest). Bobby Motaung has clearly failed to back the 23-year-old Tower, who was rumoured to be back with his Sundowns-chasing father in Venda yesterday.
Sukazi admitted Tower was at Naturena earlier in the week but said: “He’s just there to assess the environment and he has not signed for Chiefs, I must stress that. He’s only having a look around and getting a feel for the club and the new coach. That is all."
Mathoho himself says: "I made it clear to my club that Chiefs is where I am going to. My stance is still the same. Sundowns did make an approach but I must follow my heart. The support I have been receiving from my family has helped me to deal with this."
Bobby? Kaizer? They are saying nothing. And they appear reluctant to part with any more money to recreate the national side’s centre-back pairing of Gould and Mathoho.
But for all their penny-pinching grinchery, the Amakhosi will get a man to put inside the No3 shirt. I’m almost sure of it.