Tuesday May 18, 2021. 09:00
Kaizer Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt has attempted to explain the disparity between his team’s continental exploits and their struggles in domestic football.
The South African giants have excelled in the CAF Champions League this season, making their first-ever quarterfinal appearance, while a place in the semis looks very likely after their impressive 4-0 hammering of Simba SC this past weekend.
By contrast, the Amakhosi have been unable to assert themselves in the domestic DStv Premiership, where they are placed 10th – just five points clear of the relegation playoff zone – after winning just six of their 27 league matches.
According to Hunt, the slower and more methodical type of football in the CAFCL is better suited to his team compared to the fast-paced Premiership.
“I think the Champions League is suited to this squad of players that we’ve got,” the coach is quoted by Times Live.
“It’s a much slower game‚ a much more predictable game‚ so it comes at you. Where in the PSL [Premier Soccer League]‚ I’ve always said that the players run faster than the ball in the PSL.
“It’s much slower in the Champions League. So maybe it suits the group of players that we’ve got here‚ where it’s a little bit more methodical‚ a bit more direct. That’s the only thing I can think of from a football perspective.
“But I don’t see … if we created similar chances in the PSL we haven’t scored them‚ and sometimes they’ve been going in in the Champions League.”
The Chiefs mentor also factored in the possible psychological damage suffered by the team when they allowed the PSL title to slip through their fingers on the final day of last season.
“If I say what I’m going to say it’s going to sound like I’m making excuses,” said Hunt. “But what they came from last season‚ and then to have a two-and-a-half week break and then start again‚ when I came here I definitely saw a huge psychological problem.
“Every time a goal went in in the first few games — well‚ this whole season — we seemed to just psychologically [react]‚ because of what had happened.
“So‚ sometimes maybe we play in the Champions League with less pressure‚ if you want to look at it like that. But I do think it’s a totally different football completely in the Champions League.
“Even the top sides — when you play Wydad Casablanca and Al Ahly‚ yes‚ they’re huge clubs‚ but they do the simple things well‚ whereas in the PSL, you don’t know what to expect.
“But psychologically‚ yes. As I said‚ I’m not trying to make excuses for where we are in the PSL.
“I think we’re the only team in the Champions League quarterfinals who are not top of their league. So it’s a huge thing.
“But it’s only half time [in the tie against Simba]. I know what it’s like there [in Tanzania]. They’re going to have a full stadium — it’s going to be crazy there. And we’re going to have to be clever.”
Chiefs will face Simba in the return game in Dar es Salaam on Saturday 22 May.