Sport

South Africa, Sport

Mosimane’s second Sundowns title, a sterling transformation success story

Mosimane’s second Sundowns title, a sterling transformation success story

In just four years in charge of Mamelodi Sundowns, Pitso Mosimane has proven what can be achieved when the right coach is given the right opportunity. In the broader scheme of the transformation discourse, he is a sterling example of how it works. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

On Wednesday night, Mamelodi Sundowns extended their run as the most successful club in South Africa’s Premier Soccer League. A convincing 0-3 win over the University of Pretoria handed them their seventh title as they grabbed back the crown the lost to Kaizer Chiefs last year.

It has been an immense season for Pitso Mosimane and his men. The statistics speak for themselves. Sundowns scored more goals than any other team in the league (53), won 20 out of 28 games (drawing five and losing just three), conceded just 20 goals, went 18 matches unbeaten from September to mid-March, and failed to score in only seven matches.

Sundowns have been fitter and smarter than their opposition for the entire season and Mosimane has not been afraid to make big calls and bench players like Teko Modise. He also relied heavily on his technical team for analysis.

We stayed up to two, three, four o’clock in the morning analysing clubs and individuals we were due to meet. Critics said we would not last the pace, playing two matches virtually every week. Did you see any weary Sundowns footballers when the final whistle blew? I certainly did not,” Mosimane said after the title win.

And while Sundowns certainly weren’t underdogs heading into the season, having finished as runners-up last year, Mosimane reckons there’s a little bit of Leicester City magic in the side.

We caught the big fish. I told you last year I knew the security code and where to fetch the big fish, and we delivered. This is a good lesson. Look at the Leicester story. They’ve won the cup. You don’t need to be the most talented team. Talent alone is not enough. These boys have persevered.”

While Mosimane is right on all counts and he and his players deserve all the credit in the world, there is a far more pertinent point to discuss. Those hard of understanding the bigger picture when it comes to transformation often like to point a finger at the “lack of transformation” in South African soccer. While their ignorant jibes often refer to the make-up of the men’s national team, they actually have a point in a roundabout way.

At management level, the absence of black coaches has been glaring in recent years which is why Mosimane’s successes at the club are so important and should, in a sense, form part of the transformation discourse. Transformation is not just a numbers game, it’s about equal access to resources and opportunities and Mosimane’s success at Sundowns is a perfect example of being given an opportunity.

While his stint with Bafana Bafana might have ended in tears, as coaching stints with the national team often do, there was no doubt that Mosimane is a quality coach. It took him just two years to repay the faith of the club and win the league in 2014, just two years after being handed the job. Some might argue that Mosimane had it easy because of the significant cash reserves of the club, but his success came after a number of Europeans had failed in the same position. France coach Henri Michel, Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoichkov and former Dutch midfielder Johan Neeskens all failed to achieve any significant success.

Another two years down the line and there can be no doubt that Mosimane is a quality coach with an acute understanding of what is required to achieve success in Africa’s richest league. Make no mistake, coaching in the league of egos is no mean feat and it takes an extremely special manager to be successful. Mosimane has done that because he was allowed the opportunity to succeed.

This is, of course, not a transformation only debate. Football’s hire-and-fire culture is cruel. And it often seems that clubs think a manager with an inflated salary request will automatically bring success. But, for equal opportunities, Mosimane’s success cannot be ignored. By the end of last season, there were just three local black coaches in charge of PSL sides, one of them being Moroka Swallows’ interim coach Fani Madida. As it currently stands, there are five, including Mosimane.

The importance of black coaches in prominent roles is an inherent part of the transformation debate. Representation at top level can inspire others to follow that same path and motivate those who have ended their playing careers to stay in the system and share their knowledge. The value of local knowledge and understanding how to deal with a number of delicate, exclusively South African issues should also not be underestimated.

This is by no means a suggestion that all coaches in the PSL should be black to adhere to transformation targets – teams all want the best talent they can afford, all across the world – but it’s simply a reminder that lamenting missed talent is not exclusively reserved for players. DM

Photo: 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

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