Kaizer Chiefs are expected to compete on all fronts, but sometimes realism should prevail. They must first rebuild before they can compete, writes Mihlali Baleka.
JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs’ 4-0 defeat to Wydad AC in the Caf Champions League on Sunday was embarrassing.
It will always be a jolt when Chiefs lose any game 4-0, but given the current form of the Soweto giants, that result, bad as it looks, should not be a shock.
Chiefs hold the record of being the most decorated club in South African football after bagging 93 official and unofficial trophies in their 51-year existence, but their history in continental football hasn’t been surrounded with such glamour.
In fact, far from it. Despite making their breakthrough in the Champions League 28 years ago, they hadn’t qualified for the group stage of the competition until this season. They did, however, win the Confederation Cup – which was called the African Cup Winners’ Cup – in 2001.
But since that triumph two decades ago, Chiefs have only managed to conquer local football. In that quest, too, they have blown hot and cold. Currently, they are enduring a five-year trophy drought after last winning silverware in 2015.
Gavin Hunt was expected to return the club to championship glory after taking over the reins before the start of the season, but the multiple championship winning coach has failed in his first attempt after being knocked out of two domestic competitions.
Chiefs’ Premiership campaign has been far from impressive as well. They are 10th on the league standings with 19 points, a whopping 17 behind leaders and champions Mamelodi Sundowns who also have a game in hand.
With local silverware clearly being elusive, Chiefs had to cast their eyes to continental glory. That got off to a promising start as they qualified for the group stage after winning their away matches in the preliminary qualifiers, while drawing the return legs at home.
In the group stage, they were the second least favourites to win Group C. Wydad and Horoya Athletic Club were and still are the favourites. These two clubs have mastered playing in Africa.
Currently, the standings prove that. Wydad are at the summit and Horoya are second, while Chiefs are third. Chiefs were taught a footballing lesson by Wydad, who scored two goals in either half to hammer the South Africans.
Yes it was a disappointing outing for Chiefs at the Stade du 4 Août in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on Sunday, but it was not alarming. After all, Wydad are two-time Champions League winners.
Last season, they qualified for the semi-finals of the competition where they lost to eventual champions Al Ahly. So, who were Chiefs to them? In fact, the Glamour Boys should be grateful that the match was played behind closed doors, considering the impact of the Reds’ supporters. It could have been worse.
Do not get me wrong Chiefs are of course expected to compete on all fronts, but sometimes realism should prevail. This is a team that has had a turbulent season after Chiefs were handed a transfer ban. So to expect them to go toe-to-toe with Wydad was asking too much.
Two-time Champions League’s winning coach Pitso Mosimane, who is now at Al Ahly, knows how tough it is playing against Wydad. He got first-hand experience during his stint with Sundowns who have been regulars in continental football for the last eight years.
And that’s why Hunt and his troops have to rebuild before thinking they can compete against the best on the continent. Of course, anything is possible in football, but Chiefs have to focus more on playing to improve, rather than playing to silence detractors.