Sello S Alcock
Sello S Alcock

The great Kaizer Chiefs tragedy: No more Jabu Pules

So there I was watching SuperSport the other night and having to stomach another drawn result by Kaizer Chiefs — another one among so many that I have lost count!

I was just about ready to curse my way out of the lounge and make my way to the bedroom when I decided to hang around a bit and listen to what the “talking heads” led by “Aquafresh smile” Thomas Mlambo had to say about Chiefs.

Mlambo went on a tirade about how the Chiefs coach should now be known as “Ertudraw”, before passing the baton on to Doctor “Nkemeleng” Khumalo who just chose to sit on the fence and not blame anyone back at Naturena.

And then Neil “Mokoko” Tovey, who has always never been afraid to speak his mind, stepped into the fray.

“I just do not think there is quality there. I mean, where are the Doc Khumalos?” said Tovey.

Aha! I got up and jumped all over the place; I was vindicated.

You, see the most tragic thing about the current Kaizer Chiefs crop is that there are no more players of the calibre of the one formerly known as Jabu Pule (now Mahlangu).

I mean, no disrespect to Doctor Khumalo — as he himself pointed out earlier in the same show, he was always urged on by the likes of Tovey in the middle of the park. Although brilliant, Doc Khumalo was never the most industrious player to take to the field for Kaizer Chiefs or Bafana.

Tovey, though never the most talented football player of our time, had a fire that has never been matched by any latter-day Kaizer Chiefs or Bafana captain.

Tovey, the player, had loads and loads of heart and would never give up even in the midst of being sold dummies all over the field and outpaced by the likes of Siyabonga Nomvethe.

You could see the fire in his eyes every time he screamed instructions to his fellow players.

“Shuffle” Pule had Tovey’s fire but was also blessed with an abundance of talent and, of course, chutzpah! (And a self-destructive streak, but that is a story for another day.)

Shuffle was fearless and had the remarkable ability to turn games. I once watched the player, then in the Chiefs development ranks, play against a Brazilian youth team that featured the likes of Ronaldinho — and Pule did not flinch. At half-time, he could be heard rebelliously urging the other players on as if he were playing another “challenge” match in Daveyton somewhere.

It was also a great pleasure playing alongside Pule because as long as he was on the field, you always felt you were in with a chance.

Even later on, as I watched his various teams play, I always felt that as long as he was still on the field of play there was a chance for a comeback.

When I look at the current crop of Chiefs players, I see mediocrity. The great Kaizer Chiefs are now a breeding ground for mediocrity. In the Chiefs of today, even if the players show a bit of heart, there has been no replication of Jabu Pule.

You know your team is in trouble when a player who should have been opening the batting for the South African cricket team is playing as a striker. No disrespect to Kaizer Jnr; he was a great cricketer, and he should have just stuck to that sport. The country would have been equally grateful and advocate Arendse would have been over the moon.

And why should the rest of Pirates- and Sundowns-supporting South Africa care? Well, we should all be worried; in fact, Parreira should be having sleepless nights, because the great Kaizer Chiefs, alongside Pirates, have always produced (even if poached from elsewhere) the Jabu Pules. If you are a patriotic South African, then you cannot ignore the fact that between them, Pirates and Chiefs have always fed us our Jabu Pules.

But then again, maybe a revolution is in the offing — as the other night showed when former Bafana great Thomas Madigage, in his now customary ZCC headgear, chased after head coach Gavin Hunt following SuperSport’s winning goal in a league humdinger that for once did not feature Pirates and Chiefs!