Katsande proves critics wrong

JOHANNESBURG - Two years ago, I also joined the bandwagon that he was a player whose rating was far too exaggerated.That he just played the game of football to gather unnecessary yellow and red cards, got stuck needlessly and added no real value to the big brand of the club he played for. I am talking of Kaizer Chiefs midfield supremo, Willard Katsande.

I even wrote an article that his future was compromised and that it was a question of time before he was discarded into the doldrums.

But a few months down the line, the Gattuso has proven me wrong - very wrong.

Last week when Chiefs annexed the MTN 8 from their bitterest rivals Orlando Pirates at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, many thought Katsande was the difference between the two teams and single-handedly took matters into his own hands.

In fact, if there is any player who Amakhosi mentor Stuart Baxter says he will name in his starting line-up first, it is one the Soweto Glamour Boys affectionately call Gattuso, in celebration of former AC Milan and Azzurri midfield anchor-man Gennaro Gattuso.

Not fancy but highly effective, Katsande has perfected the art of delivering without being flamboyant or doing something extraordinary.

"I have learnt to stick to the basics; do as per coach's instruction which is to neutralise the opposition and create space for my teammates. I don't believe in playing to the gallery because in most cases if you do so, you lose possession and you put your teammates under pressure," he told a leading Mzansi football magazine recently.

Having arrived at Amakhosi four years ago from Ajax Cape Town where he was considered not more than a fringe player, Katsande started his career at Chiefs as a robust player and earned the wrath of referees.

He would hardly finish a game without earning a yellow or red card and officials started to target him as a marked man.

In his own words, Baxter thought of selling him to another club as he was costing the club dearly but how surprising what a year can do in one's career.

"I have not changed that much but I also believe referees targeted me unfairly then. I would go for a 50-50 tackle with an opposition player and the next thing I normally saw next was a yellow card flashed in my face. It was a question of having developed a repulsive reputation rather than being too tough.

"But if you believe in yourself, some of these issues normally take care of themselves; and here I am today getting all these accolades," he reminisced.

Though approaching 30, Katsande says he has not lost hope of making it into the professional ranks of Europe.

And he knows he has the attributes of what is needed by big European clubs. He is a big boy, is industrious and is one player never afraid to 'dirten' his hands.

The next Warriors coach must definitely think of making the Chiefs strongman the next national team captain.

After all, he has been a loyal servant of the game and it is high time he is rewarded for his never-say-die attitude.

Because if all Amakhosi supporters swear by Gattuso then Warriors' fans should say, in Katsande we believe.

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