Cape Town - It was gratifying to see one of the greats of the modern South African game elevated to among the most prestigious coaching posts in local football.
Steve Komphela has a wonderful opportunity as the new coach of Kaizer Chiefs to extend a growing reputation as a mentor of players and solidify the long-standing perception of him as one of the sport’s real personalities.
Komphela rarely says anything dull, is of firm convictions and has been at the coal face of the game over the last two and a bit decades of post-Apartheid international participation.
He comes from the generation who have had opportunity their forebearers did not; first to play for their country, to play club football overseas and then to go on and transfer their playing expertise to the coaching arena.
Not many have grasped it fully but Komphela has been one. To be given the Chiefs job is symbolic of the respect he enjoys.
More particularly, however, it is because of what he has achieved over the last 12 months, taking the modestly resourced Maritzburg United to a first ever top eight place in the club’s history.
Komphela came in to the club around midway through the previous campaign when Ernst Middendorp decamped to a supposedly better opportunity at Bloemfontein Celtic.
He took some time to understand his environment and resources and made some bold changes, including dumping a few of the club’s big name stars.
This past campaign saw Komphela put his faith in several unknown and inexperienced players, changed his first choice goalkeeper and introduced a rookie striker to lead the line.
Maritzburg finished eight, their highlight coming in a dramatic late home win over Chiefs on a rumbustious night at the Harry Gwala Stadium.
But his ability to transform the team came in the tranquility of the provinces and with none of the pressure that he will face in the toughest hot seat in the domestic game.
At Chiefs, Komphela will not have time to take in his surrounds, ponder his options and then slowly set about forming the team in his image. At Chiefs it is results that count. His predecessor got off to a clumsy start in conceding four goals in the first half of his first game at Mamelodi Sundowns, but the next week Chiefs won 6-0 away at AmaZulu and Stuart Baxter never looked back.
He will be a hard act to follow after two championships in three years. Komphela’s own experience will tell him that he needs to get off a flying start to buy himself the requisite time to achieve his long-term ambitions.
Mark Gleeson is a world-renowned soccer commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.
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