Chippa United coach Dan Malesela was given a vote of confidence by team management after steering the club into another season of PSL football.
The Chilli Boys received a great welcome upon their arrival at the Port Elizabeth Airport yesterday after having played to a goalless draw against Free State Stars in their final league match of the season.
The draw was a good enough result for both sides to avoid relegation by means of superior goal differences.
Chippa finished the season in 13th position on the log with 28 points and Free State Stars finished in 14th spot.
After lingering doubts about Malesela’s future, the team’s chief operating officer, Lukhanyo Mzinzi, confirmed that the head coach would be part of the team next season.
“A draw never felt this good,” Mzinzi said.
“There were no celebrations last night [Saturday]. The coach stayed with his players at the hotel and we had a chat about the next season.
“The coach has a three-year contract with the team, so he is coming back next season. He is our coach – we have to discuss a lot of things, including player recruitment.
“Being the only PSL club in the Eastern Cape comes with its own pressure. We are a young club, but we know that people of this province love us and they love beautiful things.
“So we might have to challenge for at least one trophy next season because they can’t wait for too long. We are always mindful of that.”
A small group of loyal Chilli Boys supporters sang songs and cheered the players, and Malesela said the welcoming was very satisfying.
“It says a lot,” he said. “It says people love you and appreciate the job you are doing.
“We owe it to these guys, we owe it to PE and the people of the Eastern Cape to have this team here.”
Although the former Orlando Pirates defender had aimed to end the season on 30 points, he was a satisfied man.
“I am pleased with the result and it’s a situation we don’t want to be in ever again. It’s stressful,” Malesela said.
“Everybody was under pressure, not only me. Even the players – you could tell in the match that there was just tension. It was one of the most tense games we have ever played in.”
Malesela said that going forward he needed to have a more stable defence.
Asked if he had identified some players yet, he said the management and technical team would sit today and discuss options.
On Saturday, the first notable effort on goal came in the 17th minute, with Stars’ Nhlanhla Vilakazi shooting direct from a free kick, but Chippa goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi made a relatively comfortable save.
On the half-hour mark the hosts threatened from a set-piece again – this time Thokozani Sekotlong went for goal from a free kick, but struck his effort just wide of the target.
Chippa offered little in attack through the second half, but on 86 minutes they had a chance for Mpho Mvelase, who was unable to beat Thela Ngobeni in the Ea Lla Koto goal.