Kaizer Chiefs have ended the year with the same monkey that was on their back at the start of 2018 and will look to the New Year for relief from the famine that is now seriously threatening the longevity of the club’s popular brand.
The burden of being without a trophy has extended a further year and seen four different coaches in a 12 month spell in an unusually turbulent time for a club who are ordinarily constrained when it comes to making coaching changes.
It is reflective of the growing desperation at Naturena as Chiefs enter 2019 still without silverware‚ since they last won the Absa Premiership title at the end of Stuart Baxter’s reign in 2014-15.
Chiefs have now gone an unprecedented three and a half seasons since without a trophy with no obvious end to their drought in sight.
This time last year they were already beginning to slip behind Mamelodi Sundowns in the league title race although still sitting third in the standings.
The year began with dropped points in a goalless draw against SuperSport United‚ then a run of seven unbeaten games before losing 3-1 in the derby to Orlando Pirates at the start of March.
But it was one month later that the wheels started to come off‚ with a 3-0 home loss to Chippa United at Soccer City being followed by defeat in the Nedbank Cup semifinals to Free State Stars.
The 2-0 loss at Durban’s Moses Mabhida stadium‚ where Harris Tchilimbou scored for Stars after just 45 seconds‚ led to apocalyptic scenes of senseless damage by spectators who invaded the pitch in protest and set about breaking equipment and beating up security personnel.
The disgusting scenes were the catalyst for coach Steve Komphela to quit.
“If it has to stop with me‚ then it must be so … I am effectively saying to you that I consider it my responsibility to protect everybody at stake‚” he said as he announced his resignation.
“Anyone sensible‚ anyone who knows football‚ will recognise that Steve has done a great job for Kaizer Chiefs‚” insisted Bobby Motaung as he tried to paint a rosy picture of Komphela’s trophyless tenure.
“He has built a team but unfortunately when it’s not meant to be for you‚ it’s not meant to be.
“Whoever takes over in the future has got a cake baked already for them just to eat.
“Steve revamped and built the Chiefs team over three years and we always had confidence in him but‚ unfortunately‚ he did not get results. It hurts because it disrupts our plans for the future.”
Motaung long backed Komphela even though his father Kaizer‚ who owns the club‚ has long held reservations about the ability of local coaches with Komphela only the second South African in three decades to coach the club on a permanent basis.
Komphela’s assistant‚ ex-Malawi captain Patrick Mabedi‚ completed the last three games of the 2017-18 season‚ winning two.
Finding a permanent replacement proved difficult for Chiefs as a bevy of potential candidates turned down a job long regarded as the hottest seat in South African sport.
Mabedi was still in charge when the players reported to begin pre-season training ahead of the 2018-19 campaign before Giovanni Solinas was belatedly appointed – very obviously a compromise as Chiefs were caught ill prepared for a post-Komphela era.
Italian-born Solinas had previously had two spells at Free State Stars but been unconvincing and the Chiefs job looked too daunting for his limited experience.
It was no surprise that Chiefs got off to their worst start to any league season in the club’s almost 50-year history.
After five league games Chiefs‚ for the first time ever‚ failed to record a win‚ including being held 2-2 at home by Bloemfontein Celtic‚ now coached by Komphela.
The MTN8 saw Chiefs suffer another semifinal setback‚ followed by the Telkom Knockout where the pain of losing in the last four for a third successive competition was exacerbated by the fact that they were beaten by Pirates for a second time in just a matter of weeks‚
Chiefs have now gone 11 derbies without success which is another unwanted record.
It was just a question of when for Solinas’ axing‚ coming after a loss in Zanzibar in the first round of the African Confederation Cup.
Chiefs first turned to Muhsin Ertugral to replace the hapless Solinas but then changed their mind and brought back another former coach‚ Ernst Middendorp‚ who had been working in Thailand.
The club finished 2018 with three wins under the taciturn German but a January 5 clash with champions Sundowns will be an early indicator of whether 2019 will offer any relief to the increasingly frustrated Chiefs support‚ which has significantly deserved the club as the drought continues.