JOHANNESBURG — It’s anxious times at Naturena as Kaizer Chiefs prepare for next season by releasing players deemed surplus to requirements‚ but long-time hard-tackling midfield stalwart Willard Katsande is not shaken with the player exodus.

Pule Ekstein‚ Gustavo Paez‚ Kgotso Malepe and Namibian goalkeeper Virgil Vries have all been released in the past fortnight, with more expected to be shown the exit door.

Chiefs football manager Bobby Motaung said the player clearout is the beginning of the club’s clean-up process as head coach Ernst Middendorp starts to prepare for next season.

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Motaung has promised more player movements in the coming weeks.

At 33‚ Katsande will be first to admit that he only has a few seasons left in him to play at his optimum at the highest level.

He signed a three-year contract extension in March 2017 that kicked in from July 1‚ 2017 and will see him remain at Naturena until June 30‚ 2020.

In his eighth season with Amakhosi‚ Katsande has seen players come in and out of the exit door at Naturena.
So influential and senior has the Zimbabwean midfield strongman been for Chiefs that his name has never been mentioned anywhere near the transfer list at Amakhosi.

Katsande has managed to nail down a regular place at the Chiefs under different coaches since joining from Ajax Cape Town in August 2011.

So why has Katsande been so successful and lasted this long? The soft-spoken, but tough as nails player attributes his longevity with the Soweto giants and his workaholic nature to his
difficult upbringing.

“I think my background was not good and the way I grew up was a bit challenging. So when I get a job, I always try and give my best and also provide for my family‚” Katsande said at the
club’s training base this week.

The midfielder‚ who hardly ever pulls out of a tackle‚ said that hard work comes as his second nature.

“I used to work as a herd boy. I used to wake up at 2am to work in the fields.

“I say my upbringing was really tough for me. Whenever I get an opportunity, I need to play my heart out‚” the star, who was born in Mutoko in Mashonaland East province of Zimbabwe,

Foreign players the world over generally need to work twice as much to be successful and that is exactly what Katsande has done since making his debut for Ajax in December 2010 after
joining from Zimbabwe’s Gunners FC.

“I am a limited player in terms of talent, but when I do the hard work, I always give my all. Whenever I get a chance, I always perform and you will never doubt my commitment‚” the
Chiefs midfield workhorse said.
Orphaned as a young boy and struggling to make ends meet with his sisters‚ Katsande saw football as a way of escaping hardships.

He understood from a young age that only hard work would see him realise his dreams of playing professional football.

“My upbringing was bad. I grew up an orphan. I’m the only boy in my family and all I need to do is to give them life through football. So I wouldn’t jeopardise my job, I wouldn’t take
my job for granted.

“I don’t only provide for my own family‚ I also provide for my extended family and friends back home. They always tell me that this is your job, so you need to always work hard and
always keep your job safe.

“I don’t need them to hear that I was that player who didn’t win anything at Chiefs. Personally, for me, I have my own pressure. I demand a lot from myself that I need to deliver.”

Chiefs‚ South Africa’s most successful club in cup competitions‚ are in their fourth season without winning silverware and that does not sit well with Katsande‚ one of their longest-
serving players.

“Kaizer Chiefs is known for winning trophies, so we need to deliver for us‚ the fans and the chairman.

“The pressure will always be there even if you win trophies, so you need to deliver season in and season out. We are paid to deliver week-in and week-out to fill up our trophy cabinet‚” Katsande added.

Chiefs will get an opportunity to lift some silverware to put some gloss on yet another disappointing season when they clash with first division rookies, TS Galaxy, in the final of the
R7 million Nedbank Cup on May 18 at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

“We once tasted success and we know how it feels to win a trophy. I mean it is always in our minds that we need to contribute to this club and we need to win trophies,” he said.
“It is always giving us sleepless nights that we need to win a trophy for the club. I’m a winner and I am a competitor. All I want is to see the team winning.

“All I want is to achieve in football because I need to be remembered as a guy who won trophies for Kaizer Chiefs — not a guy who was part and parcel of a group that failed to win
silverware for the club.”