Why Chippa United's descent to the PSL playoffs is of their own creation
Chippa United's descent into the ignominy of the Premier Soccer League's (PSL) relegation playoffs at the weekend will not come as a surprise to those who watched notoriously trigger-happy club owner Siviwe “Chippa” Mpengesi go through a succession of coaches with an insatiable appetite during a disastrous season for the Gqhebera-based side.
The curtain came down on the DStv Premiership on Saturday afternoon and after the dust had settled‚ the Eastern Cape's lone representatives in the domestic top-flight had been condemned to the uncertainty of the playoffs after they could only manage a 1-1 draw against SuperSport United at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
That they managed to escape a straight trip through the relegation trapdoor is rather fortuitous as Mpengesi presided over a largely unstable ship that saw coaches Lehlohonolo Seema‚ Dan Malesela‚ Zwide's Siyabulela Gwambi and Serbian Vladislav Heric all take turns on a coaching seat that is about as volatile as an erupting volcano.
The Chippa boss must consider himself fortunate that after such sustained upheaval and instability‚ he was still able to escape automatic relegation to the lower tier and has been given a lifeline through the PSL's much-criticised relegation/playoffs.
The Gqhebera-based side could play their way back to the Premiership if they are successful in the playoffs and while some will argue that they do not deserve the second chance after a disaster of their own creation‚ current coach Seema is grateful for the possibility of escaping via the backdoor.
“I think it is a 1-1 draw [against SuperSport] that we can take and say 'OK‚ we tried and at least we did not lose our last match of the season‚” a grateful Seema said.
“However we have to prepare for the playoffs now and it is life ... uh‚ a fight we are looking at in a serious way because it is not everybody who is getting a second chance.
“Ja‚ as you could see the mood of the guys [after the game]‚ they were disappointed but we said 'look‚ there is still life in us and we can go fight and then get back‚ so that we can come and play better'.
“Seema started the season with the Gqhebera side but was placed on suspension in December having managed just one win out of eight games in the DStv Premiership.
He was eventually replaced by the hapless Malesela‚ who was sacked for the fourth time by Mpengesi in April.
Malesela was fired after an embarrassing 5-1 league defeat to Maritzburg United and was eventually replaced by Gwambi.
The Zwide coach took over on an interim basis but later made way for Heric‚ whose appointment was claimed to be that of technical adviser.
The Serbian was suddenly elevated to the coaching seat but was fired with only two matches remaining in the season last month.
Heric's dismissal came after a 2-1 defeat to Bloemfontein Celtic at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane.
Seema quietly returned to the seat last month and oversaw the last two matches — against Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (0-0) and SuperSport — that ended with Chippa's plunge into the playoffs.
It is worth remembering that Chippa also attempted to hire the controversial former Free State Stars coach Luc Eymael twice — in December before appointing Malesela and in April after sacking the hapless coach for the fourth time — but backtracked under media‚ public and political pressure.
The Belgian was fired by Tanzanian side Young Africans FC last year after he allegedly called their fans “monkeys” in an interview‚ and Mpengesi was on the receiving end of furious criticism when he tried Eymael on both occasions.
Seema said they would take a little bit of time off and then begin their bid to return to the Premiership via the playoffs.
“It was just to tell the guys that the season is over‚ the PSL games are over‚ and now we are playing [possibly] our last game due to this kind of performance we have here.
“Yes‚ we are disappointed and we would have loved to go home earlier but unfortunately the situation is not allowing us.
“So let us go back‚ recharge a bit‚ fight and stay in the league.”