Chiefs legends speak out as team sinks deeper into relegation zone
The warring factions at one of Botswana’s most colourful clubs, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, are threatening to undo everything the club have achieved in the last decade.
Since winning their maiden League championship in 2008, Chiefs went on to win 15 major trophies between 2008 and 2016, including three league titles in the last five years.
All that could go down the drain if an amicable solution is not found soon.
Chiefs rank amongst the most successful clubs in the country and have dominated the football scene interchangeably with Township Rollers over the last 10 years.
Now, following one of the most disastrous seasons in Botswana’s league history, Magosi find themselves in unfamiliar territory, last experienced in the 2002/3 season when they played in the promotional play-offs against then-relegated giants Gaborone United, Township Rollers and Jwaneng Comets.
Ten games into the season and the 2013/2014 champions are third from bottom with just two wins.
The red lights flashed even brighter when Chiefs brought just 14 players to their midweek match against Black Forest, a fixture they lost 2-0.
With the numbers going south and a foul air reeking out the corridors of the ‘Kgatleng dynasty’, three former players, legends in their own rights, have spoken out about their troubled club, and their fear of a possible repeat of 1993 when Chiefs were relegated.
Former striker Parker Mampori shared his frustrations with Voice Sport and put the blame squarely on the club’s administration. Mampori stressed that the Chiefs management must move swiftly to address the issues besieging the club.
“We cannot blame the coach, no coach in the world can get positive results with a demoralised squad,” said Mampori.
The former hard hitting forward said the excuse that the current squad is inexperienced does not hold water.
“The young forward Thatayaone Ramatlapeng has played more than 15 international matches with the Under 20 team. All the club’s wingbacks are experienced – admin just has to sit down and solve their internal problems,” he said.
“Most importantly they have to be honest to the supporters,” implored Mampori.
Another legend and decorated defender, Fred Pheko told Voice Sport that if Chiefs do not get their house in order before January, they could relegate to the first division.
“I was there when Chiefs faced similar problems in 2003, we nearly relegated as games ran out for us to save our season. I see a similar situation with the current impasse,” Pheko warned.
“No one is telling us what is happening, but we can tell from afar that something is not right,” he continued.
Pheko said from the few matches he has watched, the player’s body language was not right. “I only saw a difference during the Rollers match, which could have been a natural response for a local derby,” he said.
Pheko said just like many football fans, at first he thought the problem lied with their club’s new coach, Bongani Mafu, but later realised there was a deep lying problem within the team.
“Team leaders need to put their egos aside and focus on building the team. Individual triumphs are not important at this juncture; we need sound people who can look beyond their egos and personal differences,” Pheko said.
The former no nonsense defender fears his club will not attract any sponsors with a divided management.
“My biggest fear is that if we don’t resolve this issue now, we might lose more players in the January transfer window and that would be the end of us,” he predicted gloomily.
Another legend, who donned the black and white stripes for Chiefs from 1990-96, Ridwell Moremi says the problem is more than just management internal bickering.
“What’s happening at Chiefs can happen to any club in the country. Should Rollers lose Jagdish Shah they will find themselves in this position. Tafic lost Maygillip and they never recovered.
“The problem is our clubs are not self-sufficient; we rely on one donor and when they decide to cut ties the team suffers. The simple truth is Chiefs lost Jamali and they can’t cope with the salary demands of players,” said Moremi, who is also a former Chiefs treasurer.
Moremi believes the situation is further compounded by the fact that no sponsor is willing to bankroll a wage bill of close to P2million a month.
“Management should resolve their differences and bring back Jamali,” he concluded desperately.
For his part, former Botswana Football Association Senior Technical Officer, Phillimon Makhwengwe said the biggest problem for Centre Chiefs is that they are a team used to prestige.
“They are used to high profile players and coaches. They lost some of their high profile players and failed to replace them and now they are in an unfamiliar position where they can’t afford players they want,” said Makhwengwe.
He further said Magosi also had no succession plan and are now relying on players who were denied game time last season.
“The players are good enough to take Chiefs to the top four, but they need to be prepared psychologically. Management should have faith in the Kgatleng talent, they should scout more talent in the region and they will bounce back,” said Makhwengwe.
Chiefs will be hoping to stop the rot when they travel to the Otse Stadium to take on a rejuvenated Police XI in a 4 o’clock kick-off on Saturday – the last set of fixtures before the Christmas break.