Chippa United took the Absa Premiership by storm last season when they finished in a club record-high sixth position.
It wasn’t just their final placing that impressed fans and observers alike, but also the way they got there, the swagger, the style, the brand and just their general way of doing things.
Coach Dan Malesela played a big part in that and he has again got the Chilli Boys going well this season.
PSL.co.za put him in the spotlight this week.
PSL.co.za: Three points out of three, unbeaten in the MTN8 as well, you must be pleased with the start to the season?
Dan Malesela (DM): “Yes it’s a good start. You can see that we have something constructive going. It’s not a finished product, but there certainly is direction.”
PSL.co.za: Many people have Chippa down as their dark horses for the season. Do you feel the same way?
DM: “I wouldn’t say anything like we are dark horses. I want us to be light horses, so we can be visible. But on a more serious note, I believe we can compete. When I look at what we have and our chances of achieving things, it is very possible. But how we conduct ourselves, is very important. It’s about being arrogant on the field, you know good arrogance. We must become consistent in what we are doing as well. Then I think we have a chance of achieving things.”
PSL.co.za: It was a longer than usual pre-season this year, with the Olympics delaying the start. Did that benefit you, what was the main focus and can you say you are now seeing the benefits once the season has actually started? DM:“Quite a number of things we were looking at in that time. Obviously the physicality was one, but more importantly was the induction of the many new players that we brought in. We acquired so many new players and most of all what we wanted to do was to have a strong relation built between the old players and the new players. You know some kind of understanding and we also wanted them to have an understanding how we operate at the club. I think that was the main part.”
PSL.co.za: You brought in a number of players in the off season. Some big names and some lesser known names, but are you happy with the new arrivals and with how they have blended in?
DM: “To put you in the complete picture, I think we had about 10 core players at the end of last season that we retained. In terms of the new ones, yes we are happy, but I’m more happier with the reduction of the average age. Last season it was 28 and this year we have brought it down to 25, so slowly we are bringing it down. We want to get it further down so we can have continuity at the club in the future. But obviously with younger players, we cannot leave out experienced players. It’s an important mix and I think we’re getting there.”
PSL.co.za: Last season we saw you finished in sixth position, a record high. How proud were you of that?
DM: “I was happy, but there’s always that desire to do better. I checked the number of games that we played when I joined the club, even some of the games that we lost, it wasn’t that we were completely beaten. Most of those games we didn’t look like a team that was supposed to lose. Now I think the players know that we can be so much better. Whether you play Sundowns or whatever I wouldn’t say the gap is that big. So I was happy and think we can do even better this time.”
PSL.co.za: So how high do you think Chippa United can go? Obviously there’s been that gradual improvement, so where to next?
DM: “Yes I think we had leaped from 14th to sixth. We had leapt that much, so another good leap will be into the top three I think. If we can do that, and I know that it’s possible, will be big for us. It will be useless of us to go back to number six or get out of the top eight. Now that will be bad. That will show that we not growing. We need to show some growth in our team. I think from three up will be fine.”
PSL.co.za: We have also seen a concerted effort from you to play an attacking, free-flowing easy-on-the-eye type of football. Tell us more about this.
DM: “I put it down to wanting to entertain people you know. We are in the entertainment industry and if we go on the field and we don’t entertain people the only entertainment that they get is when we score goals. I think that will be us cheating the paying customers, so it comes from there. And also the influence of my playing days and how I was brought up in football. I was fortunate to get coaching and development. You know to just play football. They wanted me to be constructive.
“I want players, I don’t want them to work hard, I want them to be smart I want them to use their brains. Anything you do using your brains properly, you will see it becomes very good. If you build a house and you put your brains together it becomes a beautiful thing. That’s where it comes from. I just want football to be entertaining. I want people to go home and their stress levels are lower you know. So it just stems from that.”