Johannes ‘Fetsi’ Molatedi was an old-school “midfield general” who commanded the centre of the park with his vision, skill, work rate and sheer elegance.
Molatedi was a player who could make the mighty Amakhosi tick - the ultimate link between defence and attack – and he is calling on Chiefs’ modern-day midfielders to dominate the battle in the middle third as they look to put the brakes on league leaders Mamelodi Sundowns at FNB Stadium this weekend.
Also known simply and popularly as “Chippa” Molatedi was a club record R45 000 transfer from Moroka Swallows when he joined Amakhosi from the Birds in 1984, in a season in which Chiefs won every trophy on offer; the league, Mainstay Cup, JPS, BP Top Eight and the Sales House trophies.
With midfielders of the ilk of Molatedi, his good friend Trevor ‘KKK” Mthimkhulu, Wellington Manyathi and the irrepressible Patrick ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe in their ranks in the mid 1980’s opposition midfielders hardly got a sniff against Amakhosi in the engine room during its heyday.
While no Chiefs team in any era could emulate the exceptional skills of that special crop of players, Molatedi says it is absolutely crucial for Amakhosi to dominate the all-important midfield battle against the Brazilians on Saturday night.
“At the moment I know the confidence of the sid is a little low. But now is the time they need to work as a team and to work for each other. They need to keep the ball in midfield; ball possession is very important, and as the game progresses they will grow in confidence,” one of Chiefs’ greatest midfielders sagely told www.kaizerchiefs.com this week.
In their day, Molatedi said the Chiefs mentality was to ensure their home ground was a “graveyard” for visiting teams.
“Our motivation was always to be the best and to dominate local football. We had the hunger to achieve this and were the best at the time. I had a little bit of ‘arrogance’, which you need on the pitch sometimes to bury the ball in the back of the opponents’ net,” says Molatedi.
Football ‘arrogance’ is not to be misleading, for the humility of a Chiefs icon is evident as he continues to plough back into the game and is currently coaching his under 9 to under 17 “Chippa Mavericks” youngsters in his hometown of Phiri, Soweto.
And he has the utmost respect for the pedigree of the current high-flying Sundowns who have earned their right to sit atop the football perch in South Africa at the moment.
“Even in our day Sundowns was one of the big players in South African football, with a number of quality footballers. They had the cream of South African players, but Kaizer Chiefs was Kaizer Chiefs. Once you put that Chiefs jersey on you have to be committed, focused and have clear goals. We wanted to make Kaizer Chiefs the best team in the country and no team was going to stand in our way,” says Molatedi.
The Amakhosi legend reserved some of his best Amakhosi games for Sundowns, no more so than when he scored a memorable hat-trick against the Brazilians in the 1987 Ohlsson’s Challenge semi-final in which Chiefs thumped Sundowns 6-0 on aggregate.
“I would rate that game against Sundowns as one of my best games in a Kaizer Chiefs jersey. I mean, how many midfielders score a hat-trick against Sundowns? Never mind strikers!” Molatedi says with a smile.
For all his brilliance Molatedi knows he will not be in the reckoning on the list of Chiefs’ best-ever midfielder, an honour he reserves for his teammate, “the master himself”, Ace Ntsoelengoe.
What Amakhosi would do to have such talent at their disposal this weekend, but Molatedi still believes Amakhosi have every chance of pulling off a home win.
“It needs somebody who will take responsibility, especially in midfield. They are the engine of the team, the link between defence and attack,” says Molatedi.
The gauntlet has been laid down for this champagne DStv Premiership fixture. Amakhosi midfielders; it’s time to seize the day.