POLOKWANE — “Don’t spoil it mate, don’t spoil it!” Stuart Baxter shouts to Kingston Nkhata. But the Kaizer Chiefs coach need not have worried, for Nkhata had it all covered.
Surrounded by media hounds armed with microphones, recorders and notebooks deep in the bowels of the Peter Mokaba Stadium, Nkhata provided an interview so polished it could easily have been rehearsed.
Having just starred for Amakhosi in their 2-1 win over Free State Stars with a goal and an assist that duly earned him the man-of-the-match accolade, the Zimbabwean striker had every reason to rub it in.
But you knew from his goal celebrations that he’s not the type. Whereas many local players often run to the crowd with their hands to their ears as if to say “let’s hear you boo me now that I’ve scored”, Nkhata simply ran to his teammates and later to the bench after scoring.
And when he got ambushed by the media mob as he left the dressing-room en-route to the awaiting team bus, the Amakhosi No 8 was coolness personified — a far cry from the anxious player who had previously fluffed numerous chances on the pitch. “It’s not about silencing the boo boys,” he said “It’s about doing a good job for the team, not about me,” he said.
That he has endured a hard time from jeering fans repeatedly calling for his substitution given his tendency to miss easy scoring chances, seems to not have had any effect on Nkhata. Instead, he says, the negative attention served to build him up: “People motivate you differently, maybe they were just trying to motivate me. But at the end of the day when I get on to the field I go there to play for Kaizer Chiefs, not for them (the fans).”
He was highly motivated on Tuesday night alright, dishing out an all-round flawless performance to help Amakhosi equal the record run of 17 unbeaten league matches set by Orlando Pirates. He opened the scoring with a deft back heel from inside the box before delivering the inch-perfect cross from which Siyabonga Nkosi scored the second.
Nkhatha said the key to his having survived the booing over time, especially in the Limpopo capital where it was pretty severe, has been by just focusing on his game.
“I didn’t really bother myself about the booing. I just switched off and concentrated on playing.”
Baxter praised his entire team for the support they provided Nkhatha.
“You saw his reaction after the goal. He ran to his teammates and the camaraderie you saw there is what has pulled us through. Everybody supports each other and that has helped Kingston. None of his colleagues ever made him feel out,” the Chiefs coach explained, adding that he was grateful to the supporters’ behaviour on the night too.