The Kaizer Chiefs are one of the most successful football clubs in African history despite having a much shorter one than most. Founded in 1970, the Chiefs have won a long list of titles in South Africa while also finding success on a continental basis. Throughout team history, there have been dozens of coaching stints, with some that stand out more than others.
Today we look at those that made their mark with our picks for the five greatest coaches in Kaizer Chiefs history. Before we begin the list, some of the coaches who just missed the cut include Steve Komphela, Vladimir Vermezovic, Trott Moloto, and Kaizer Motaung.
The first spot on the list belongs to Ernst Middendopr, a German native who had a decade-long playing career between the 1970s and 1980s. He has coached more than two dozen clubs during his managerial career, which started with Eintracht Nordhorn in 1987. Middendorp first managed the Kaizer Chiefs from 2005 to 2007, then returned for a stint from 2018 to 2020.
Middendorp struggled a bit to start his career with the Chiefs but was still able to win 21 of his first 53 matches. He found more success in his second tenure, which saw him win 31 out of 60 matches. Middendorp was able to help the club win the 2006-07 MTN8 Cup, too.
Muhsin Ertugral was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1959 and had dreams of playing professional football, but his playing days were brief. He made just one professional appearance in the late 1980s, then settled in both Belgium and Germany where he learned how to manage a football team. His first big job was becoming the head coach of Zaire’s national team during the mid-1990s while he continued to learn.
In 1999, Ertugral was named the head coach of the Kaizer Chiefs and held the position for four years. That wasn’t the only stint that Ertugral had with the team, either. After coaching five different clubs including Ajax Cape Town, Ertugral made his return to Kaizer Chiefs in 2007. He stuck around for another two years and has coached multiple teams since then. Ertugral was able to keep the club toward the top of the PSL standings for most of his combined stays.
Unlike Ertugral, Englishman Stuart Baxter had a lengthy professional playing career. In 1973 he came onto the scene with Preston North End, then played for several clubs over the course of the next 11 years including South Melbourne FC, Stockport County, and Orebro SK. Baxter retired in 1984 and immediately went into managing, starting with the team he last played for.
During his managerial career, Baxter has made a lot of stops, including leading South Africa’s national team. In 2012, he took over Kaizer Chiefs and his first tenure was three years. He left in 2015 and managed three other clubs, as well as the South African national team again, before returning to Kaizer Chiefs in 2021. Baxter’s squads won the Premier Soccer League title twice, as well as the Nedbank Cup and MTN 8. He was named the PSL Coach of the Season in both 2012-13 and 2014-15.
The late Ted Dumitru went all around the world during his long managerial career. The Romanian began coaching in 1966 in his native country before Dumitru made his way to the United States during the 1970s, then Africa in the 1980s. It was then that he took over Kaizer Chiefs for the first time in 1985, with his first stint lasting three years. 15 years after leaving, Dumitru began his second run with the team.
It proved to be his final time coaching club football, as he left in 2005 to manage South Africa’s national team before retiring in 2006. Under Dumitru, the Kaizer Chiefs won the Premier Soccer League Championship in back-to-back years (2003-04 and 2004-05). They also won the BP Top Eight Cup, Coca-Cola Cup, and Charity Spectacular Cup multiple times while adding a Vodacom Challenge and Mainstay Cup.
Another Englishman to make the list, Jeff Butler may have stretched the truth when it came to his playing career. As a coach, he said that he had played for many professional teams across England, but those turned out to be tall tales. However, that doesn’t take away from his long managerial record. After coaching Nkana Red Devils and Al Ahly during the mid-1980s, he took over Kaizer Chiefs in 1988.
Butler had four different stints as the club’s manager. He coached from 1988-89, 1991, 1992, and 1995-1996. In his combined career, Butler was able to win the NSL First Division title three times, as well as multiple Knockout Cups, BP Top Eight Cups, and Telkom Charity Cups. The late manager left for the final time in 1996, briefly coaching Botswana in 1999 before retirement.