Chiefs’ Blessing In Disguise!

Editor's Blog
Editor's Blog

Truth be told, the recent two transfer windows FIFA ban imposed on Kaizer Chiefs following irregularities in Malagasy player, Andriamirado Aro Hasina Andrianarimanana’s acquisition was a blessing in disguise for the Naturena-based club.   

It is history now that Amakhosi lost their appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after they were punished by FIFA over their signing of the player affectionately known as Dax, who was punished for terminating his employment contract with Fosa Juniors FC in Madagascar when he was signed by Chiefs, “without just cause”.

The Glamour Boys were only allowed back into the transfer market ahead of the 2021/22 season and wasted no time in taking advantage of the lifted ban. While that was great news for the club, looking back, one can’t help but feel the ban was good news for Chiefs. The ban was a double-edged sword because it affected their chances of competing for silverware negatively, as they couldn’t reinforce their team with quality and established players. They were literally held back as they couldn’t sign any new players for two transfer window periods, which resulted in them being forced to make do with what they had. They therefore missed out on several players who would have loved to play for Chiefs immediately. You’ve got to give Chiefs credit for the fact that, despite the ban, they still went on to get some players that they signed but couldn’t register and ‘loaned’ them out to your Stellenbosch FC and Swallows FC, for example. Sifiso Hlanti and Phathutshedzo Nange come to mind, and they are not the only such players. That was a behind-the-scenes arrangement entered into by parties concerned as the club couldn’t register anyone, although they were not barred from signing players, which is why the players’ acquisitions were only made official after the ban was lifted. That speaks to Chiefs’ foresight and street cred.

On the other hand, the ban forced Chiefs to look within the club structures rather than outside. This is something they may have not done had circumstances been different, or not done to the extent they were forced to by the ban. There were injuries and COVID-19 also forced the club’s hand, above and beyond the FIFA ban, to look to the club’s development structures for answers to the questions posed to them by football gods. Some players’ development had to be expedited and that was great news for Amakhosi’s youth coaches because it meant their players were now, suddenly, prioritised. The conveyer belt was now given the much-needed boost and operating at a higher speed. The club focused more on homegrown talent instead of ready-made players. What was another win for the team was having coach Arthur Zwane involved with the senior team, as he knows the club’s development structures like the palm of his hand. That also added more emphasis and focus on giving a chance to the team’s youngsters because coach Arthur wasn’t new to the players as he had his fingers on the pulse of the team’s development structures. The club has since benefited a lot from that FIFA ban because they are among the teams with the highest number of their own development products in their squad in the league. 

This exercise saves the club a lot of money, but it comes with a lot of patience and understanding that if you are to rebuild, silverware will be compromised. With proper focus, you know what you are doing and what to expect. With Chiefs having promoted a lot of players in recent seasons, it gives hope to the current development players that they also stand a chance to make a name for themselves. Because of the ban, Chiefs didn’t spend as much as they would have otherwise done and therefore saved a lot of money. However, money aside, the main important thing is to see development products promoted to the senior team, which is the whole objective behind development. It serves no purpose to have these structures when they don’t benefit the team. You can’t be making wholesale changes to your team every season, buying players when you have a development team. That’s where you tap into for fresh talent to fill the void left by either ageing or departed players. By so doing, the team can manage their expenses very well. Development also gives the senior technical team time to monitor and groom players for positions that will become available in the future, well ahead of time, so that when the time comes, they are not found wanting.  

The other good news for the team is that a development player doesn’t need any induction into the team. They already know and understand the team culture, philosophy, expectations and what the team is all about. Remember, these players get the feel of the senior team through playing friendly matches, watching them train and even play while interacting with them on a regular basis. They are not completely new to the system, which is already part of their DNA. When these things take place, it is important to know the difference they make not just in the team but the whole ecosystem. If you cast your memory back to when Orlando Pirates used to have no less than nine players in their starting line-up in the Soweto Derby from their development structures, every Bucs supporter related to that club. It was easy for them to associate themselves with the team because they could identify with the brand of football played by their development products. It is no surprise that people are still talking about that Pirates team to this day. These are some of the players the supporters watched grow into the team and that means the supporters had more than just support but love for their own. That goes a long way in building the club brand and relationship between all parties concerned. Supporters are not na?ve, when they see a new crop of players living up to expectations, they get excited because they know they will be around for longer. When teams recycle the tried and tested, who will be around for just a few seasons before they leave, supporters always have reservations about such players and therefore don’t entirely warm up to them. Supporting a team is an investment both financially and emotionally, so if the supporters don’t feel like they ‘own’ a team, then it is difficult for them to throw their full weight behind it. That’s why there’s always a reluctance towards recycled players, whereas homegrown talent gets all the love and support. 

When the homegrown talent makes a mark by grabbing the opportunities presented to them, then the whole plan comes together. There’s nothing worse than a failed development product promotion as it hurts the club and the chances of the next group of players getting a look into. At these big teams, there are no second chances. You snooze, you lose and it is that simple! Any player promoted by big teams should be up to the task or else they will be shipped out and possibly get lost in the system. That’s the sad reality because big teams are about winning and can’t be nursing young players forever. If you get promoted, the onus is on you to deliver straight away. It is encouraging to see Chiefs promoting and playing their own products and them delivering on their end of the bargain. That’s how you sustain your team and Amakhosi’s future looks bright! 



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