Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE international Willard Katsande deserves a legend status and a befitting send-off after it emerged the midfielder will be leaving South African football giants Kaizer Chiefs after 10 years of service.
Reports from South Africa suggest that AmaKhosi have decided against renewing the 35-year-old's contract beyond this month. However, Chiefs were still to release official communication by yesterday afternoon.
Katsande is one of the longest-serving players at Chiefs having joined the Glamour Boys from Ajax Cape Town -- now known as Cape Town Spurs -- in July 2011.
The former Zimbabwe international has been an integral part of Kaizer Chiefs' success in recent years.
He would definitely have wanted another run with Chiefs after leading the side to their first ever CAF Champions League final this year.
His dream would have been complete if he had put the icing on the cake by helping Chiefs lift the coveted silverware. However, the result went against them in the final against Egyptian giants, Al Ahly.
Despite losing 0-3 in the final played in Morocco, the Zimbabwean midfielder touched a new personal milestone as he became the first foreign player to clock 326 games for Kaizer Chiefs.
Compatriot Tinashe Nengomasha, a Chiefs legend in his own right, previously held the record with 325 appearances for the club. Amakhosi snatched the services of the midfielder from Ajax Cape Town with former assistant coach, Ace Khuse boasting, "there is something special there".
Katsande's decade with Chiefs was littered with some exciting ups and nerve-wrecking downs but the tough-tackling midfielder has won two PSL titles, the Nedbank Cup and the MTN8 Cup during his time with the four-time PSL champions.
Throughout his career, he was known for his no-nonsense approach in the heart of midfield, the never-say-die spirit and the workaholic attitude that won him many admirers in the Chiefs family.
In the 2015/16 season, Katsande remarkably won Player of the Season, Players' Player of the Season, Fans Player of the Season at the Kaizer Chiefs awards.
He bagged a whopping R175 000 worth of prize money to cap a superb season in which he finished as Chiefs' the second-top scorer with seven goals, despite being a defensive midfielder.
Amakhosi have reportedly decided not to extend Katsande's contract due to the imminent arrival of Cole Alexander. Katsande struggled for game time last term but was key in the Champions League campaign.
Kaizer Chiefs fans took to social media yesterday to pay their homage for a decade of service by the Zimbabwean midfield enforcer.
"I salute you King Willard Katsande, your contribution to the team was amazing. All the best for the future. Whatever team that will sign you will have bought or signed quality, commitment and a never-say-die attitude type of guy. Farewell King Salt," tweeted Mxolisi Lekena.
"Willard Katsande is legend extraordinaire. Many times have I watched him put the team on his back. He is always your 150 percent performer game in and out. If he is not a legend, we may need a new definition for a legend," posted Napoleon Maanda.
"To you my brother as Khosi Nation you will always be in our hearts. We love you, thank you for your service.
"You served us with diligence. Lots of love, respect for you Katsande," said Sibusiso Kunene.
"Willard Katsande is a Kaizer Chiefs legend, you can't take that away from him. He served the club," said Kabelo Kungwane.
"A journey well-travelled, Bute. True Warrior and Zimbabwe ambassador. A decade of service at one of SA's top clubs is a milestone. Well done," asserted Charles Mutemi.
"Willard Katsande had a long and successful stint at Kaizer Chiefs. Nothing wrong with it ending while he's still relatively on top of his game. Hope to see him soon coming back to mentor youngsters after he retires. I think he's got one or two seasons left in him as a player elsewhere," noted Ephraim Sbudda.
A final farewell gig would have been an appropriate send-off.
Some fans have suggested that Chiefs should reward him with one more stint for his unwavering commitment, while others feel Katsande should stay in another capacity.
"Willard Katsande is leaving with a legendary status. I just wish Kaizer Chiefs would reward his loyalty with one-year contract," said Peter Kidi
"A true legend indeed, very dedicated, I wish he can continue or come back in another capacity, in the youth structures to teach the young stars about discipline and dedication amongst others, will always respect," added Tshepo Moragala.
"I still feel Kaizer Chiefs should have kept Willard Katsande for another season. The man is just a legend period!! Hope they won't regret," said another Twitter user by the name, I am African.
Katsande is one of numerous Zimbabwean players that have been excellent football ambassadors in the neighbouring nation, particularly at Chiefs.
From Ebson "Sugar" Muguyo, who was the first Zimbabwean to play for Chiefs in the 1970s, Hussein Amidu, Claudius Zviripayi, Rabson Mchichwa, Tinashe Nengomasha, Thomas Sweswe, Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat, and Teenage Hadebe, Chiefs have had the best of Zimbabwean quality.
Kelvin Mushangazhike, Onismor Bhasera, Matthew Rusike, Lincoln Zvasiya, Michelle Katsvairo, Edmore Chirambadare, Kingstone Nkatha, Ovidy Karuru, Luke Petros Jukulile, Abbas Amidu and Zhaimu Jambo are also some of the Zimbabwean players who had flirtations with the South African club.