Hail “King Katsande”

Is this the man who failed to make the grade at lowly Ajax Cape Town less than four seasons ago? That is the question that many a soccer fans should be asking themselves each time the Zimbabwe midfield dynamo gives another sublime performance.

Willard Katsande.
Willard Katsande.

The senior national soccer team’s midfield destroyer has been exceptional for Kaizer Chiefs since last season and his play keeps improving with each successive game.

Katsande made a low-key arrival in the ABSA Premiership when he joined Ajax from Gunners in the 2010-2011 season. He only started 15 games for The Urban Warriors and most fans only got to know something about him when he was eventually “offloaded” to Kaizer Chiefs at the end of that season.

As usual, most of the Amakhosi fans lambasted the club’s chief scout at that time, Bobby Motaung, for settling for the “excess baggage” instead of grabbing the livewire that was Khama Billiat. Bobby had had to defend the same insults when he bought Tinashe Nengomasha in 2002, so he kept quiet this time and – just like Nengomasha, Katsande had a slow start to his Chiefs career.

His first game for the side being a 3-2 loss to biggest rivals Orlando Pirates at the FNB Stadium, he could not have had a worse introduction. Chiefs conceded three goals to a depleted Pirates side in the first 15 minutes of that game.

The Amakhosi did find two goals of their own in the second half, but at the end of the game, most of their fans would rather cry out for Nengomasha, who watched the game from the terraces, than notice the new “General” in the name of Katsande.

Those who dared talk of the Mutoko-born new arrival partly blamed him for loosening the team’s midfield and thereby, exposing the defence. Barely three years later, Nengomasha – who has since moved to Bidvest Wits, has nearly been forgotten at Chiefs, as Katsande wins games almost single-handedly.

Since last season, the Zimbabwe Warrior has been arguably the most-consistent player in the league. His brave play and timely interceptions have helped Chiefs become the meanest team in the ABSA Premiership, while they march on towards their second straight league title and fight for continental recognition.

On the negative side, Katsande has been Chiefs’ yellow-card machine, but that has not made him any less-loved. Coach Stuart Baxter has always jumped to his defence, attacking referees for “targeting” his star player.

Overall, Baxter has been impressed by his import. “Willard Katsande is quite good. He always wins every ball and breaks up the play from the opposition. He is usually just faultless,” said the Britton, soon after Katsande helped Chiefs thrash Mozambique’s Liga Muculmana 4-0 in their CAF Champions League game at the Moses Mabhida Stadium at the weekend.

“When you are playing at home, it is important that you don’t concede, especially in the CAF Champions League. And it is important you try to create a good lead to the away leg and we did that.”

Baxter added: “I thought at times we played very well. We scored two goals but we put the foot off the accelerator a wee bit in the second half. So we spoke at the half-time break about the need to increase the intensity, and make sure our passing was good and our rotation as well.”

Post published in: Football

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *