WORK IN PROGRESS
Let me start by thanking you all for turning in such large numbers to all our pre-season matches. From the Limpopo Challenge until the Telkom Charity, it gave me such encouragement to notice that the Amakhosi troupe of supporters is still loyal and faithful to their team. I honestly appreciate your sacrifice and hope that we shall work together to strengthen our family. Our boys do appreciate you at the stands!
Talk about our boys, the Technical Team has been working hard to prepare them for the season ahead. Our immediate assignment has been to use every opportunity including all training sessions, practice matches and the official competitions to critically assess the quality of players in our squad. We have now reached a final stage of recommending stringent changes that have obviously attracted a lot of your responses as expected. I am not surprised because the formidable Arsenal in the British League was also subjected to this kind of reaction after letting one of their prolific marksmen, Thierry Henry to pursue his career in Spain.
It is on such responses that I would really want to thoroughly put matters into perspective to help you gain insight into the mandate I face since taking up the challenge to guide Kaizer Chiefs.
I must state that I do hear and respect your concerns; some of which are truly genuine to encourage whilst others are honestly critical of our undertakings. Be that as it may, I am thankful that at least I am able to account for our decisions based on the diversity of such concerns.
For starters, when I embraced the opportunity to work at Kaizer Chiefs, I understood that my task was a pressure-filled responsibility given the history of success associated with the team. Similarly, I knew the challenges ahead given my past experience with the club and it was for that reason that I set both personal and professional targets for myself. I also understood the urgency with which I needed to apply myself given that the team had minimally met the expectations of the thousands of supporters out there. Like any other business, I had to adopt a business-like approach where clear-cut deliverables were planned, implemented and monitored with precision.
Top on my strategy was to critically analyze the tactical make-up of the players by assessing the various systems of any match given the dynamic and challenging approaches that football has seen in recent times. There was no doubt in my mind that if Kaizer Chiefs were to compete at a higher and effective level, it was important to apply international standards that characterized football today. A closer look would reveal that on average, the style of play required quick, aggressive and a forward moving pace all the time. Obviously this is a style that requires some measure of agility espoused by a determined athleticism needed from young and hungry professionals.
A further observation is that midfielders are well prepared to cover between twelve (12) and fourteen (14) kilometres in a single match activity whilst wingers are expected to do between fifty (50) and seventy (70) sprints in one match. Surely this clearly indicates that football has set international requirements and those that perform maximally with this kind of approach have actually made it despite the size of their countries.
For example, critical followers of British Football would notice that players use a maximum two (2) seconds on the ball within an average ninety (90) minutes of play. This clearly translates into a kind of style that has a bustling tempo, pace and precision. Perhaps this is the reason why many British teams have made it into top-level European competitions and it is therefore not surprising to often find them competing in the finals. For example British teams reached the finals of the UEFA Champions League between 1976 – 1982 in succession, and a had a break that saw them repeat the feat in the 2005 – 2007 seasons.
Looking afar, countries like Holland and Austria have invested in Youth Development Programmes that instil these highly technical international standards quite early. In addition, a country like Argentina has seen their youth win the FIFA Youth World Cup a record six (6) times in the last eight (8) World Youth Cups and an Olympic Gold medal to add to their tally. Furthermore, Austria has introduced a system that offers any Under 21 player a certain type of bonuses from the Federation for featuring in any senior team. With this approach, there is a clear indication that senior teams are becoming younger by drawing these youngsters into their ranks quite early into their chosen careers.
Now let us be honest and ask if there has been a crafted strategy in this country to develop our youngsters in a more organised and properly resourced manner like that I presented above. I am asking this because we are sitting with a wealth of experience and international expertise in Carlos Alberto Parreira our National Coach who is expected to rebuild our football amidst the absence of a youth structure.
Without delving too much into the above, my mission is to at least take Kaizer Chiefs into the same wavelengths of reaching international standards. Obviously this approach might not augur well with some of us but when supported and approached step-by-step, I believe this team can be unbeatable in the future.
In doing so, I know that there would be some criticism as already expressed by some sectors that have mistakenly thought that we have introduced the “off-side” defensive mechanism to our style. The truth is we are playing a pressing game that requires our defence to utilise minimum distance between the midfielders so that we are quick to regroup systemically when we lose the ball. Clearly there can never be any time wasting or mistakes on the ball considering the distance and the speed with which we need to recover.
I therefore would reiterate that I do understand and share your sentiments but the reality is that we cannot escape international standards that have seemingly crept into our sports. I am also not naïve to notice that it would take some measure of patience to work on the current squad, but at the end of the day, I am obliged to meet the stipulations of my business plan.
Thank you once more for your patience and may I invite you to work together to create a winning formula for all of us!
Coach Muhsin Ertugral