I have paid my school fees, Tembo

Being underestimated in the football circles is something Kaitano Tembo, the SuperSport United coach, is accustomed to.

On Saturday evening at Orlando Stadium, Tembo – only on his second full season in charge at SuperSport United, will coach the club in their second successive final in the MTN8. Last season’s MTN8 final – his first final as a coach – he lost oh-so-close to Benni McCarthy’s Cape Town City on penalties. Lessons have been learnt since then and the loss at Moses Mabhida is now water under the bridge.

SuperSport United will play Highlands Park in the MTN8 final at 18h00 at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

Saturday’s Cup final is yet another opportunity for Tembo to silence some of his doubters. But the former SuperSport United defender knows all about being second-guessed. He, however, is comforted by the fact that after more than a decade at SuperSport United, few can claim to know the walls inside the club’s offices more than him.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he says when referring to criticism and scepticism. “I have paid my school fees. I started at this club as a player, I became a captain. I then coaches the junior teams and the MDC (MultiChoice Diski Challenge) team. I was an assistant coach for many years and I worked under different coaches. I have been a caretaker coach in this club before and now I’m the coach. So, I know this club. I know what it is about,” Tembo said.

His CV – both playing and managerial path – is impressive. It talks about a person who has been groomed for a role he is now occupying. That he has graduated from all these stages is testament of his staying power.

On paper, his SuperSport United team will be favourites against Highlands Park on Saturday evening. SuperSport United have strong and successful Cup history as the wind behind their back against a Highlands Park team that has not played in any Cup final in over three decades.

Why then is it that their coach, Tembo, is underappreciated for the work he has put not only in saving the club from possible relegation to season’s ago but taking them to two back to back finals?

He offers a possible answer: “I wouldn’t know why people are sometimes doubting. Maybe I don’t speak fancy language and maybe I’m too simple.”

His secret to staying power might be on that last statement – simplicity.

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