WHERE IS HE? New Kaizer Chiefs player Morgan Gould sheepishly looks on while the club's marketing director, Jessica Motaung, unveils prospective signee Mulomowandau Mathoho's jersey in his absence at an unusual press conference yesterday. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

KAIZER Chiefs yesterday unveiled prospective signee Mulomowandau Mathoho's jersey at a press conference before finalising transfer negotiations with the player's employers, Bloemfontein Celtic, in a bizarre decision that could yet have embarrassing consequences for Soweto's glamour club.

Mathoho was not even present at the media event, held south of Johannesburg, but Chiefs marketing director Jessica Motaung told Business Day that the decision to unveil the player's jersey would not come back to haunt the club as the deal "is almost 98% completed".

The defender was awarded a No3 Chiefs jersey.

"This is just an intention to sign him and this is to say this is the player we want," she said.

"This is to show our supporters that we are doing the work. We are being straight and we are being up-front about our intentions. We are speaking with the player and we have already agreed terms with him.

"We will complete this deal within a few days. There are things that need to be finalised but we are making sure that he will be in a Kaizer Chiefs jersey next season."

But an insider warned that Chiefs may rue the decision to "unveil Mathoho" as Mamelodi Sundowns could be the reason the transfer has not been completed. Sundowns, owned by billion aire Patrice Motsepe, may have offered Celtic more money for the player.

The insider said Sundowns had offered R8m and two players while Chiefs had offered Celtic R6m.

"Sure, the player may want to play for Chiefs but nothing is ever certain in South African football where money is involved," he said.

"That is why Chiefs' decision to unveil Mathoho's jersey at this press conference when he has not even been signed has the potential to be such a public relations disaster."

Indeed, Chiefs do not seem to have learnt a lesson from similar deals previously that collapsed after they had confidently paraded players while there were still contractual loose strings.

A case in point was midfielder Papi Zothwane, who was unveiled in June 2006 at a packed press conference held at the club's headquarters in Naturena. Chiefs believed that he was out of contract and thus eligible for a free transfer.

Club chairman Kaizer Motaung presented Zothwane with a jersey emblazoned with the number 19 on the back before Golden Arrows declared that the midfielder was still very much their player.

Arrows said Zothwane had in fact extended his contract and so could not be named as a Chiefs signing.

Handwriting specialists ruled that the signature on the contract was indeed Zothwane's, but the player insisted he never signed.

A protracted tug of war between Chiefs, Arrows and the player ensued and the case was heard by the Premier Soccer League (PSL), the South African Football Association (Safa) dispute resolution committee, and it even went for arbitration.

The Safa arbitration panel eventually ruled in November 2006 that Zothwane return to Arrows.

There were other similar episodes in Naturena but Motaung insisted yesterday that Chiefs were not setting themselves up for another embarrassment.

Chiefs manager Bobby Motaung, who usually announces player signings, was conspicuous by his absence at the event yesterday.

The club also confirmed the arrival of Siyabonga Nkosi, Siboniso Gaxa, Kgotso Moleko, Sakhile Hlongwa, Morgan Gould, Kingston Nkhatha and Brilliant Khuzwayo.

While Chiefs new coach Stuart Baxter admitted that he was not involved with the signing of the new players, he gave the newcomers his blessing nonetheless.

"Management was in a better position to scout for new players because I was not here," the Englishman said.

ntlokom@bdfm.co.za