MPHELA: Pitso Is Not A Cry-Baby, He Is Just A Winner

Former Striker Katlego “killer” Mphela

Ahead of the much-anticipated grudge game between Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs. We spoke to Katlego “killer” Mphela who represented both clubs, to give us his insightful analysis on what to expect in the match that has been the talking point in the past few weeks.

Sundowns mentor Pitso Mosimane put petrol on the fire when he said Chiefs benefit from referees and that they are favourites to win the league because they aren’t in the CAF Champions League, that wasn’t well taken by the Amakhosi faithful. Team manager Bobby Motaung was quick to respond saying the four-time league winning coach is obsessed with his club.

Ahead of the Shell Helix Ultra Cup a fortnight ago, there was a heated exchange between the two coaches Mosimane and Ernst Middendorp.

Banele Pikwa: Killer, how are you doing? You’ve just recently announced your retirement from football. What are you planning to do now?

Katlego Mphela: Ngiyaphila outie yami (I’m good, my guy). Right now, I’m busy with the Killer Mphela foundation where we hosting soccer clinics and we visit schools. Last weekend, I was at Mafikeng and this weekend I’ll be at Kimberly but it’s just a start for now.

BP: Tell me more about this foundation, what do you do exactly in those schools?

KM: We are hosting soccer clinics for now, but the plan is to scout players so we can have a team that will compete against ABC Motsepe and GladAfrica Championships by doing that we hoping to give them an opportunity that will make their talent get recognized easily.

Katlego “killer” Mphela

BP: This sounds like a very interesting project and let’s hope the players do get recognition. Who are you working with?

KM:  Right now, I’m still with this other guy Pontsho who is an agent under Cream Sports Management but we are trying to get more guys involved. We have spoken to Lerato Chabangu about joining us and we are trying to get other guys as well but it depends on who is available but we have to start working so they can see what we are talking about.

BP: let’s talk about goal scoring, Killer, which is a struggle nowadays, strikers are failing to score over 15 goals in a season and we hardly see things like hat-tricks. What do you think is the problem?

KM: First of all, from my side, I don’t think these guys are working hard enough on their finishing skills because if you watching some of the games you see strikers failing to convert sitters and we can’t blame the supply because the service is there but they [the strikers] just lack basics.

Even the big teams are facing this problem, I think strikers have to do extra sessions, there’s no other way. You can’t expect the coach to teach you the basics and the fact that they are here [playing professional football] means they can score but they just need to work harder.

If it means they must stay behind or come early then they should do it. To be honest, I used to be the last person to leave training because scoring a goal is not easy, it requires you to position yourself well and you should practice how to kick the ball when you’re in a particular position. Work on your movements and technique, so it’s important to stay behind and do those extra sessions.


BP: We’ve seen some teams hire finishing coaches. How important is it to have these coaches?

KM: I think it’s very necessary, when I played in Europe we had a coach for each department. When hiring for these departments it’s important to get someone who has been there and done it. We have produced good strikers before guys like the late Phil Masinga, Benni McCarthy, Mark Williams and Shaun Bartlett to name a few. We can still produce such strikers we just need to get the right people who know how to develop a striker in a South African way.

BP: Is it something you see yourself doing?

KM: Yes, it’s something I can do. But for one to do this they need to be sure of the journey they are about to take, it doesn’t mean now just because we have this problem everyone who was a striker can be appointed. You can’t just hire someone because you want to fill the gap or because he is your friend. You [teams] need to see the type of strikers they need, strikers that fit their style of football then they can look for someone who was that kind of striker to help develop the current strikers. I don’t believe in doing something for the sake of doing it.

I believe we have a lot of potential in this league, look at a players like Kermit Erasmus and Bradley Grobler they have all the attributes of being a top strikers but come end of the season you find they didn’t reach even 10 goals which is a problem so we really need to polish these guys because they have what it takes. 

BP: Most legends in the country shy away from coaching and they prefer being TV analysts. Is coaching in general something you might consider?

KM: To be honest, I’ve never seen myself being in such position because I don’t think I can handle other people’s personalities and ego. I really don’t see myself as a head coach but you never know sometimes an opportunity comes in a way we didn’t expect so we can never rule anything out completely. But as things stand I see myself more involved behind the scenes.

BP: Let’s talk about a former player that become a coach, Pitso Mosimane. How is it like working with him?

KM: Eish! (sighs) If you have someone like Pitso Mosimane, you [players] will definitely improve. That guy is very hands-on, he is always informed on what’s happening in the world of football. That guy doesn’t sleep and he demands discipline so that’s what makes him a good coach. Look at the players he has worked with, it’s either they go overseas or they end up at Bafana Bafana, he really works hard on improving his players. He’s one of the best in the country and I think players are blessed to have such a passionate person in football.

BP: Mosimane has been very vocal about referees favouring Chiefs and some fans tend to agree with him saying that this is not new and that Kaizer Chiefs have always benefited from the officials.

KM: Haha (laughs), no man. Football is like that, the more you attack, the more you will be fouled. This is something that people say whenever a team is on-form, it means they are fouled more in the box not that referees favour them. Sometimes he [Pitso Mosimane] will be getting the penalties and that’s how football works. You can’t get penalties when you are not attacking, Kaizer Chiefs were off form last season and no one was saying they are benefiting from the referees because they weren’t attacking that much. Now things have changed and it’s not because of the benefit of the referees, no I disagree.

BP: Some fans labelled him as cry-baby on social media. Is he really someone who complains?

KM: Never! He’s not even close to being a cry-baby. Pitso is a born winner, he always wants to win and when things don’t go his way maybe we can say he becomes emotional but that’s purely because he doesn’t want to lose. He emphasises the importance of winning and that’s why he’s always in the Champions League.

BP: His next game is against your former team Kaizer Chiefs. What can we expect in that game?

KM: Yoh! Kaizer Chiefs vs Mamelodi Sundowns is going to be more interesting than ever. I think this time there are a lot of grudges and we saw the rivalry of the two coaches building up and Chiefs thrashed Sundowns. So it created more hype for this upcoming league game and we all can’t wait for this one but I think Sundowns will be a lot better and stronger this time, they will want to prove a point because it wouldn’t look good if they lost twice even though the other one was a friendly, it would still be bad for such a big club.

BP: What’s your prediction for this enticing encounter, who’s winning this one?

KM: I will give it to Mamelodi Sundowns, they are wounded and they will want to prove a point so they will throw everything at Kaizer Chiefs. This will be a different team from the one that got a hiding two weeks ago.

BP: Pitso said Kaizer Chiefs are favourites to win the league. Who do you think will be crowned champions in May?

KM: That one is really tough, it’s still early days but I can say it will be between the two teams. I think Chiefs have improved a lot this season and they will beat a lot of teams. Sundowns are always there in the top two, so yeah, I think it’s between these two.

BP: What about Orlando Pirates?

KM: To be honest, I don’t trust Rhulani [Mokwena] and I don’t think he will last till the end of the season. He took over at a wrong time when there was too much expectations so he’s definitely too young for such pressure and knowing Pirates fans they will be on his back; demanding results and they have already dropped a lot of points. I don’t see them improving anytime soon to be honest so I’m ruling them out, but this is football I might be wrong, this is just my opinion. But I really don’t see him lasting until the end of the season.



BP: Killer, thank you so much my brother.

KM: Anytime my man, thanks for the chat.

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