Home » Sports » Ten Years After Father, Chiefs Get Their Legend

ZIMBABWE midfielder Willard Katsande could claim a first major individual accolade in the South African Premiership if he can shrug off the tough competition posed by eight other players for the Kick Off Footballer of the Season award.

Kick Off is South Africa’s biggest selling soccer magazine while their website is also keenly followed by many readers in and outside that country.

Mamelodi Sundowns winger and Katsande’s Warriors compatriot Khama Billiat has also been nominated for the award but it is the former who is having a dream season, who is odds-on favourite for the accolade.

Billiat is so highly rated at Sundowns that Kick Off believe that the Zimbabwean international is arguably the one player coach Pitso Mosimane misses most when he is unavailable.

The former Aces Youth academy winger’s season has, however, been blighted by injuries which have curtailed the number of appearances he has made for the Brazilians while Katsande, barring suspensions, has been at the hub of Chiefs domestic and continental campaigns.

Former Warriors and Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Tinashe Nengomasha, now at Biest Wits, is the only Zimbabwean to have previously won the award.

Nengomasha claimed the top prize after starring for Chiefs in the 2003-04 season in which he also won the club’s Players Player of the Year award.

Another player to have come close to winning the award is Warriors and Chiefs talisman Knowledge Musona who was twice nominated in the 2009-10 and the 2010-11 seasons.

But on both occasions the Smiling Assassin, as Musona is affectionately known, lost out to Bafana Bafana internationals Steven Pienaar and Thulani Serero respectively.

Although Nengomasha is the only Zimbabwean to have won the award, his countryman and former Chiefs midfielder Rabson “Sarafina” Muchichwa holds his own unique record with Kick Off magazine.

Muchichwa still holds the record of having been Kick Off magazine’s best cover boy.

When he was on the cover in March 1998, Kick Off sold the most copies, nearly 100 000, and that record stands to this date.

The former Black Aces midfielder’s covers always did well for Kick Off during his time at Chiefs as he was very popular with the fans.

But it was not until Nengomasha won the award that a Zimbabwean name was etched onto the prestigious list of the winners. That Katsande is currently leading the vote and is g favourite to win could yet guarantee that a Zimbabwean will be the winner exactly a decade after Nengomasha rose highest.

Interestingly Katsande, just like Nengomasha, is a defensive midfielder whose job is forming the first line of the team’s defensive shield and has endeared him with the Amakhosi fans and even some neutrals.

But his aggression when executing his defensive duties, have often come at a cost as statistics of his time in the Absa Premiership show.

In 2010-11, in his maiden dance with the South African top-flight game after his departure from Gunners for Ajax Cape Town, Katsande earned just one yellow card but as he got to grips with the demands of the league he had been booked on five occasions by the end of the 2011-12 season.

It then got worse in the 2012-13 season when he earned the bad boy tag and seemed to be the target of both the referees and his opponents and in that term Katsande had nine yellow cards and was sent off once.

Refreshingly, there has been a reduction in those yellow cards and he has remained as robust in his style and the former Urban Warriors holding midfielder told Kick Off, in the latest issue of the magazine, that the improvement had been down the technical aice from Chiefs’ English coach Stuart Baxter and the change in perception by the referees.

“In my first season at Chiefs I wasn’t much of a regular but I still started more games (13) than I had at Ajax (4) which was encouraging.

“Then the coach Baxter took over at the beginning of last season, I still had to work hard to earn my place in the team but the encouraging thing that he told me during his early days was ‘You are a good player son. For now I am using Yeye (Reneilwe Letsholonyane) and (Siyabonga) Nkosi because they are doing well but that doesn’t mean they will perform the whole season at the same level so you will get your chance and you have to use it’.

“When you are told that by a coach who works with you every day, you feel motivated and you remain inspired instead of moaning. When I got my chance he came back to me and told me: ‘Son, this is the chance that we were talking about so use it wisely’.

“You feel valued working with that kind of coach,” Katsande said.

Katsande also offered his opinion on the declining number of yellow cards.

“Last season it was more of a reputation thing where if anyone goes into a challenge with Katsande, refs will probably judge the situation based on reputation and not the actual situation that occurred. Plus some of the opponents would overact just to get me a yellow card.

“I am sure now the refs are analysing and seeing that my intentions are not to play dirty and that I am not a rough player who punches an opponent in the face when the ball is at his feet.

“Yes I am a physical player but I always have my eyes on the ball and so maybe people are judging me better. I will never change myself which is why I still go into tackles. It is just that the referee or the people analysing the games are doing so at a better view from my side.

“To suggest that I have changed anything about the way I play is wrong because I haven’t changed anything,” Katsande said.

Katsande also said he bore no grudges against the match officials and insisted he never felt they were targeting him.

“I don’t want to blame them because they are also human beings and maybe emotions got to them. I cannot really say I was targeted because referees were merely doing their job.

“Everybody in life is bound to make mistakes and these referees know the laws of the game better than us. After they blow the whistle you cannot change that”.

Katsande also paid tribute to veterans Esrom Nyandoro and Nengomasha for their “brotherly aice” to him.

“I have always received phone calls from my brothers Esrom Nyandoro and Tinashe and both of them gave me similar aice — I need to improve my anticipation on the field.

“I put that aice into my game and the coach also told me that I need to be smart now because the situation we are faced with as a club regarding me. I need to be calm yet be aggressive and not go in to be reckless”.

Chiefs face stiff competition from Sundown’s in their bid to reclaim the title but Katsande remains confident they would be able lodge a successful defence of the championship.

“We are confident and we are playing as champions with the intention of winning the league again. Now that we have tasted success we know how sweet it is but we need to stay humble for us to win the league again”.

Source : The Herald