Last week, Pitso Mosimane became the first local black coach to lead a PSL club to the title. That is a startling statistic and should be discussed as much as quotas when it comes to transformation of sport in South Africa. Local black coaches need to be given the opportunity to excel instead of playing second fiddle to European counterparts. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
It is quite strange to think that, in a country where the majority of the population is black, there has only been one black coach to lead a team to the Premier Soccer League title. It’s taken 18 years since the competition’s inception for a black coach to be showered in glory.
Last week, former Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane led Mamelodi Sundowns to the title. The Brazillians claimed their first championship since 2007 and it could not have come at a better time.
With transformation in South African sport always a hot topic of discussion, this win could not have come at a better time. There is often much focus on the numbers different sporting codes. Rugby and cricket are often found to be “too white” in its participants, but soccer itself cannot wash its hands. While players more than adequately represent the numbers, but representation at coaching level is as important. Black coaches serve as an inspiration others in many ways. It offers those who are not quite good enough to make it as a professional player something to aspire to. It’s also a good way to keep the really good players in the game to share their knowledge once they have retired.
The value of local knowledge when it comes to team cohesion should not be underestimated either, yet the trend for most clubs has been to opt for overseas coaching talent. As one of the most lucrative leagues in Africa, choosing European coaching talent is something many of the PSL clubs can afford. There is not much wrong with that – it’s no different to the English Premier League looking for overseas coaches – but the widespread value of helping local black coaches shine can be immense.
Mosimane doesn’t see it as being all about race, though. For him it’s about working hard to achieve goals.
“For me it’s not about being a black coach winning the league, it’s about a coach who works hard, a coach who does his job, who understands the local league, a coach who also assesses and respects the game and makes the players work hard,” he said in an interview with BBC Sport.
“On the other hand, how many black coaches deserve to coach Orlando Pirates or Kaizer Chiefs or Mamelodi Sundowns? Not many,” he added.
Steve Komphela is another local black coach who has proven his mettle. He has helped Free State Stars to mid-table finishes and turned around Maritzburg United’s fortunes this season. But PSL clubs have also had a shocking turnover in staff, with 33 coaching changes in the months from February 2012 to February 2014, so it’s no wonder that black coaches struggle to prove themselves when they are given the opportunity and Mosimane feels black coaches in South Africa are given far more difficult chances than foreign coaches.
“It’s a fact; we don’t want to talk about it but it’s a fact. This situation happens where black coaches are never given chances. We are given teams that need to be saved from relegation and all the European coaches and even the local white coaches get the chance before us,” he said.
Mosimane’s achievements come after a number of Europeans have failed in the same position. Despite Sundowns being financially sound, thanks to the backing of mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, France coach Henri Michel, Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoichkov and former Dutch midfielder Johan Neeskens have all failed in the same role.
But the coach is under no illusions about what it takes to succeed and insists that getting into a role where you can take a team to great heights is not something black coaches should simply expect.
“We need to do the work also. We should not think this is affirmative action and we need to be given a chance as if football owes the black coaches a position. I do the work; my players will tell you I work very hard,” he said.
“People say it’s easy to win with Sundowns (because of their financial strength) but why couldn’t they win the league for the last seven years with the players that they bought and with the money that’s been put into the team? What’s the difference? I work hard, I don’t play golf.”
With sporting transformation almost always in focus in South Africa – and rightly so – Mosiame’s success could have a ripple effect. While it’s only natural to want to bring in the biggest and best European names to South African soccer, it should serve as an important message that, if given the right opportunities, there are talented and able black coaches who can do the job just as well as their foreign counterparts.
Whether or not his victory will inspire a mindset change in what kind of coach local teams opt for will remain to be seen. What it should do, though, is remind those who push the transformation agenda that the picture is far bigger than representation at playing level. Creating opportunities, courses and clinics for those who take care of young talent should be seen as just as important as pushing for those who represent national sides. DM
Photo: Then South Africa’s soccer coach Pitso Mosimane gestures during the 2012 African Nations Cup Group G qualifier soccer match against Sierra Leone at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, October 8, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko