Orlando Pirates coach Sredojevic recognises Chabalala's heart

Orlando Pirates central defender Justice Chabalala (R) pose with the Carling Black Label Cup with teammate Ntsikelelo Nyauza (L) at FNB Stadium.
Orlando Pirates central defender Justice Chabalala (R) pose with the Carling Black Label Cup with teammate Ntsikelelo Nyauza (L) at FNB Stadium.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

There’s something that fascinates the Orlando Pirates fans about Justice Chabalala that perhaps coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic does not see.

Sredojevic did not play the 27-year-old towering tough-tackling Giyani-born defender at all last season.

Nyasha Munetsi‚ who has since left for French club Reims‚ was the preferred choice to partner captain Happy Jele in the heart of the Bucs central defence in the first round of last season.

Alfred Ndengane arrived in January and Chabalala found himself further down the perking order.

Ndengane has played 23 matches in all competitions in the seven months he has been at Pirates while Chabalala managed just 22 since 2016.

Young Brazilian Caio Marcelo‚ who has also since left the club to return home‚ and experienced Ntsikelelo Nyauza also had game time at centre-back last season.

One would have imagined that one of Ndengane or Nyauza would have been ahead of Chabalala on the voter’s roll in the pre-season exhibition match that allows fans to select the line-ups and make substitutions online.

But the Ghosts had other ideas. 

Chabalala is clearly their favourite after receiving over 11‚000 votes to partner Jele at centre back in only his second Soweto derby. He featured in the October 2017 derby.

Chabalala reciprocated the faith shown in him by the Ghost with a decent display that impressed Sredojevic as Pirates walked away 2-0 winners against old enemies Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium.

Although “Micho” warned that one performance would not guarantee a place in the team‚ the Serbian coach was impressed and suggested that Chabalala is not far from cracking the nod.

“Chabalala being voted to play by the supporters is not by accident. 

"The supporters recognise the big heart of a player from Giyani‚” said Sredojevic.

“Today he was parachuted to the magnitude of this game and we are extremely happy and proud of him and his performance.

“He has knocked on the door but in the same moment we have no right to judge one game as a finished product.”

So good is Chabalala that despite spending the majority of his time at Pirates on the bench or in the stands since joining from Free State Stars in 2016‚ Sredojevic revealed that there are teams knocking on the door for the services of the defender.

“When you look at Justice from a point of the qualities and the realities‚ knowing that so many teams have been looking for him‚ he has shown an enormous amount of loyalty to the team.

“He has always been a generator of positive energy for the team."

“Micho” said Chabalala “needed personal management in preparing him for this match” and the coach was happy with the way senior players helped the defender adjust to the pressures that come every time the Soweto derby comes around.

“We are extremely happy as the technical team‚ as a team and we are happy with the players that they have in a way helped him adapt‚ adjust and acclimatise to the challenges this game is bringing because it is a make or break match‚” said “Micho”.

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