Da Gama will have to wait, it’s Tembo’s time to shine

Kaitano Tembo, coach of Supersport United (Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Let me first say I have nothing personal against Owen Da Gama and his Highlands Park team. In fact, it would be hard for me to hide my admiration for the man’s work even if I tried.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s delve into why I am throwing my weight behind SuperSport United, particularly Kaitano Tembo, to win the MTN8 title this Saturday at the Orlando Stadium.

Tembo has been in the game since the late 90s and has blue blood running through his veins as he has been part and parcel of Matsatsantsa A Pitori for about 20 years. He did not win much as a player and is in his second season as a head coach. He has tasted success at a coaching level, but that was when he was still locked in the shadows of Stuart Baxter, Eric Tinkler and a couple of other coaches who he has played second fiddle to.

There is one particular period that made me a little dejected and that was when Baxter had accepted the Bafana Bafana coaching gig in May of 2017 and would only assume the role a month or so later. He missed most of SuperSport’s games, leaving Tembo to steer the ship, and the Scot would only make special appearances on the bench for the supposed big games.

In the meantime, Tembo was in charge, but only just, while Stanley Matthews, the club’s chief executive officer, was running after Eric Tinkler’s signature.

Tinkler, now leading Maritzburg United, came in and found the team already in the thick and thin of the Caf Confederation Cup and he basked in the glory that was mostly Tembo’s (and maybe Baxter’s) spade work, only succumbed in the final against Congolese giants TP Mazembe.

It is now Tembo’s time to shine and enjoy the labour of his work. He has put together a team worthy of lifting this title, not to say the Tembisa-based side and Da Gama are not worthy winners, but on the balance of rationality and fairness – something that the football gods often ignore – Tembo deserves this one more, especially after he lost last season’s final to Cape Town City.

Highlands, you see, are in their second season in the top flight and are doing quite well. They made it into the top eight on their return to the premium division and to go all the way into the final is a great achievement. To go on and win it would be an even greater success, but that fairytale story will have to be put on ice.

Tembo’s job is depending on this, although there is still the Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup still to come. He has to secure at least one trophy and do well in the league if he wants his contract to be renewed as he is in the final year of his employ.

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