Just what the ‘Doctor’ ordered: Kaizer Chiefs’ history of possession football

Kaizer Chiefs’ Doctor Khumalo battles Orlando Pirates player Sibusiso Zuma for the ball

Back in the day. Kaizer Chiefs’ Doctor Khumalo battles Orlando Pirates player Sibusiso Zuma for the ball. Picture: Duif du Toit/Touchline Photo

Published Feb 24, 2024


Kaizer Chiefs’ interim coach Cavin Johnson was waxing lyrical about some of Amakhosi’s legends at this week’s pre-match Nedbank Cup press conference.

Chiefs will host Motsepe Foundation Championship outfit Milford FC from Empangeni in Kwazulu-natal at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday (6pm kick-off) in the Nedbank Cup last-32 round tie.

Nowadays Chiefs, once the undisputed aristocrats of South African football, are no longer a championship-winning side. Almost a decade has passed since Chiefs last won a trophy in the domestic arena.

In an effort to explain how he wanted his team to play, Johnson found reason to reflect on the club’s glorious past because their possession-based football had laid the foundation for match-winning performances, year in and year out.

Chiefs game based on possession

“I always say, modern-day football is about being possession-based – press high – press low – play between the lines – play with set-pieces, all those little questions,” said Johnson.

“For me, the game hasn’t changed. It’s still played within a square, with a round ball, and it’s still 11 v 11.

“The history of Kaizer Chiefs has always been based on possession and they always had players able to dictate the pace of the game. That, for me, is the important thing that we are working on.

“It’s about how quickly you’d like to play the game, and at what pace would you like to play the game.

“When Ace Ntsoelengoe was around, he would always kill the game, no matter where he was. That was the one thing that Kaizer Chiefs had always had. They had Ace playing on one side and Teenage Dladla on the other side who was like a jet, who would get the ball and the rest was history.

“Then we had the Doctor Khumalo generation. You had the same thing, and he could kill the game with possession and hit teams on the counter.

“So, we are still far off from that style, and I think we are still building towards those areas where we were once dominant, and we haven’t lost yet since I’ve been here.

“It’s only winning that allows you to build a different culture.”

Chance at some silverware

The Nedbank Cup competition will offer Chiefs a last chance to lift silverware this season.

The trophy drought at Chiefs has been a concern for players, none more so than lanky defender Given Msimango. He says the team must show they can adapt to and overcome the vagaries of cup football.

“You worry about every opponent because each one proves to be a challenge in their own way,” said Msimango.

“When you look back through the Nedbank Cup, lower division teams have a history of doing well against higher division teams. This is because the motivation is different and the mentality is different when playing a team of Chiefs’ calibre.

“At the same time, as Kaizer Chiefs, our mentality is elite and needs to be elite at all times, irrespective of the opponent.

“We give all opponents the respect they deserve. We have watched them and analysed them. We know they are a good side with quality players, so we are preparing accordingly to avoid an upset and to advance to the next round.

IOL Sport