by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE departure of Kaitano Tembo from Supersport United brings to an end one of the longest running relationships in South African football.
Supersport on Tuesday announced it had reached “a mutual agreement to part ways” with the Zimbabwean-born mentor who had spent 23 years at the side, both as a player and as a coach.
In between, the 51-year-old served as an assistant or development coach.
“A mutual agreement to part ways” is usually euphemism for a dismissal in South African football circles.
Tembo’s position had become untenable after a string of inconsistent and lately lackadaisical performances by his youthful team this season.
The chastening extra time loss against national first division side, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, in the Nedbank Cup last Saturday, triggered the sacking.
The Nedbank Cup was Supersport’s last chance of clinching silverware but Tembo’s side floundered.
It was the second time in five matches Matsatsantsa a Pitori had thrown away a 2-0 lead to lose a match 3-2, following a similar outcome against Orlando Pirates in the league.
Management believes it had to intervene and arrest this trend of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
This brought to an end Tembo’s tenure, which ran three years, nine months and 13 days into the job he assumed from Eric Tinkler.
This makes the former Zimbabwe centerback the third longest serving coach in the history of the side from the capital city, after the longest-serving Pitso Mosimane and Gavin Hunt, both whose tenures lasted more than five years.
In the dugout, Tembo was in charge of 135 matches that brought 55 wins. Some 38 matches were drawn and 42 lost.
That excludes the 12 matches he took charge on a caretaker basis. Those ended in four wins, five draws and three losses.
The length of Tembo’s stay at the helm of the former league champions is remarkable in a league notorious for trigger-happy club owners.
He was second only to Stellenbosch’s Steve Barker (appointed in 217), among the current longest serving coaches in the DStv Premiership.
The former club and country captain leaves Supersport eighth on the log with seven games remaining. His assistant, Andre Arendse, takes over in the interim.
Benni McCarthy, who recently parted ways with AmaZulu, is mentioned as the favourite to succeed Tembo.
Coincidentally, Tembo’s first match as the substantive coach was against McCarthy’s Cape Town City, which ended 2-0 in favour of the latter.
Tembo nonetheless departs with his head held high.
The highlight of his tenure was winning the MTN 8 in 2019 (Tembos’ second final, after the first was lost to McCarthy’s Cape Town City).
By guiding Supersport to gold against Highlands Park, Tembo wrote his name in the South African football history books as arguably the first individual to win the same cup as a coach and a player in the modern era.
He had been part of the Supersport side that won the tournament in 2004 while it was still under the sponsorship of South African Airways.
Tembo has been at Supersport since 1999 after joining from the now-defunct Seven Stars.
“Kaitano is the epitome of the dedicated club man,” said Stan Matthews, Supersport Chief Executive Officer.
“Very few players transition into coaching at the same club where they played. We want to thank Kaitano for the many years that he served SuperSport United in various capacities.”
Matthews lauded Tembo as a true servant the always placed the interests of the club above individuals’.
“We are grateful for the role he has played at the club both as a player and coach.”
Years as a model of stability in the league, Supersport is degenerating into a volatile outfit. It is enduring its most hot-blooded season.
The side apparently is paying the price for selling its most prized players, particularly to crosstown rivals, Mamelodi Sundowns.
National team midfielder, Teboho Mokoena, is the latest to cross the floor. The timing of the transfer (January window) smacked of a lack of ambition by Supersport executive but financial gain the only justifiable logic.
That, and a string of suspensions, injuries and the delicate issue of want-away midfielder Sipho Mbule, have combined to wreck Supersport’s season.
Apart from Mokoena, other key players that SuperSport United sold under Tembo’s reign were Dean Furman, Grant Kekana and Aubrey Modiba, a development that saw the team lose great talent.
Tembo has emerged the fall guy.
– CAJ News