Life looking good for Katsande at last

JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter owned up in an exclusive interview a few weeks ago that when he arrived at Naturena in 2012, the first player he wanted to offload on a free transfer was midfield strongman, Willard Katsande.

“He was accumulating yellow and red cards left, right and centre and I could not stand it anymore. It was costing the club matches.

“I warned him that if he does not tone down, I will have to release him,” said Baxter in an interview with one of the leading Mzansi publications.

His sentiments were then also echoed by some unforgiving journalists here who even questioned Chiefs’ thinking in bringing the player to the country’s most famous club from Ajax Cape Town.

Even some officials seemed to buy into the sentiments and targeted the stocky midfielder, not for his deeds by his no nonsense reputation.

“I was being unfairly treated by the referees who thought I was just out to injure other players instead of playing football. But my approach has always been combative but fair,” said Katsande in retrospect.

Fast forward to 2014 and the Englishman cannot name a full strength Chiefs squad without Katsande’s name on the team sheet.

In fact, Katsande has started in almost all of Chiefs’ matches, whether it is in the league, cup matches or continental competitions prompting Baxter to make an about turn last week telling journalists that if Katsande was not named South Africa’s Player of the Year, then he will have problems in accepting the authenticity of the whole process.

In the match against rivals Orlando Pirates last month, the bustling midfielder appeared from nowhere to head home the winner and give Amakhosi what appeared like a priceless lead at the top of the Absa Premiership.

Since then, the man who was born 28 years ago in the rural village in Mutoko has grown from strength to strength underlining the confidence his mentor has in him.

In fact, according to Baxter, Katsande has been a rock on which he has plotted most clubs’s downfall.

And for a man who only a few months ago was the foul guy for the club, life has really changed for the better for Katsande.

Now, if all goes according to Baxter, the player will not only pocket the R150 000 that goes with being the Player of the Absa Premiership Season but might lead his famous side to a second double, meaning handsome bonuses in the process.

The Soweto Glamour Boys are seated second on the Absa Premiership, three points behind leaders Sundowns but with a game in hand.

They have also reached the semis of the Nedbank Cup and will meet Bidvest Wits for a place in the coveted final.

“I would like to achieve more and more success with Chiefs. It might be too late for me to think of moving to Europe but if an opportunity comes, who can turn down playing in Europe,” he said.

Things can only get better for Katsande who Warriors coach Ian Gorowa praised for his attitude both on and off the field.

“He is a gentleman of the game. I love his conduct and he has a bright future if he keeps his feet on the ground,” added Gorowa.

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