Katsande on cloud nine

He crunched into tackle after tackle and roamed the pitch with authority as if he owned Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Willard Katsande.
Willard Katsande.

Orlando Pirates tried a number of what eventually proved to be vain sojourns into Kaizer Chiefs territory, but he mopped up wherever necessary to ensure the Buccaneers could not get a foothold in midfield. Chiefs were well on course to winning the MTN8 Trophy, which they eventually did.

In combination with the in-form Reneilwe Letsholonyane, it was a joy to watch as Chiefs played more on the counter-attack in the second half, with Katsande at the heart of many of their transitions.

Kaizer Chiefs have always been the cup kings of South Africa, but the game that delivered them the MTN8 Trophy at the weekend was not one of those strolls in the park. As none has ever been when the opposition is Orlando Pirates.

Yet that one Tefu Mashamaite chance that came in the 28th minute, coupled with a brilliant midfield display and agile goalkeeping from Brilliant Khuzwayo, ultimately walked Amakhosi to the winners’ podium.

While it was stand-in captain Mashamaite who headed Chiefs to the trophy, special mention should also go to their Zimbabwean star midfielder, Katsande. Ever since he got healed of the Ajax Cape Town hangover about two seasons ago, Katsande has been the rock that the Kaizer Chiefs midfield is built on and he did not disappoint on Saturday.

Katsande, one of Coach Stuart Baxter’s favourite players, did not put a foot wrong in the final, exuding a fighting spirit that cemented his status as a midfield general.

He said early this week he was also personally happy with the way he acquitted himself as the Naturena giants not only walked back to glory with the trophy and R8million first prize, but also notched up a 10th straight win in all competitions so far this season.

The former Gunners man, who has come on in leaps and bounds as the finest holding midfielder in the PSL since eradicating the yellow cards from his game, refused to be blown off the ground after the match, dedicating everything to God, as is always his tradition.

“First and foremost, we need to thank God for this victory. It means a lot, as you can see. We managed to stick to the coach’s game-plan. I think it was a good game, both sides wanted to win. Thank God we managed to win it,” he said.

“Coach always told me that I’m the engine of the team, I have to win every ball, I have to break down the opposition attacks so that we can attack so my job is to balance the team, to give cover to my back four as well as my forward players, to give them balance when they’re going forward.”

Chiefs won the Cup for the first time since 2008 and this being the first major silverware of the league season; they could be well on course to laying their hands on even more. They still led the log standings with a hundred percent record after the first six league games.

Should that happen – it would mean more joy for Katsande, the only Zimbabwean who has been a regular performer in the gold and black colours.

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