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SA’s Pitso Mosimane mulling over his options after exit from Egyptian giants Al Ahly

Al Ahly head coach Pitso Mosimane will be leaving the club after 21 months at the helm. (Photo: EPA / Khaled Elfiqi)

Egyptian football giants Al Ahly have parted ways with SA coach Pitso Mosimane. What does the future hold for the respected mentor?

It was a historic move. No African coach who was not from Egypt had ever taken the reins at the record-breaking African champions Al Ahly. South Africa’s Pitso Mosimane rewrote the history books when he managed that feat two years ago.

However, the relationship between the greatest club in African football and one of the greatest coaches in African football ended abruptly when the Egyptian club confirmed earlier this week that they had acceded to Mosimane’s wish to leave the club after 21 months at the helm.

“Al Ahly and Pitso Mosimane have reached an agreement to part ways,” read an official statement from the club.

“Mahmoud El Khatib, the club’s president, held a meeting with Yassin Mansour, the chair of Al Ahly; Hossam Ghaly, the club’s board member; and the planning committee members to discuss Mosimane’s future with the club. They decided he should continue his mission with Al Ahly as a result of the achievements he has managed.

“However, during the meeting that was previously held, Mosimane requested to leave and [said] that he is satisfied with the achievements he accomplished at the club. Mosimane’s decision was discussed and it was decided to approve his request to part ways with the club, and to thank him for his achievements with Al Ahly.”

Mosimane himself confirmed this sequence of events in a statement released by his management company, MT Sports Marketing and Management.

Hit the ground running

Mosimane joined Al Ahly in September 2020. During his tenure, he led the African heavyweights to three CAF Champions League finals on the trot — winning two.

The Kagiso-born coach replaced René Weiler, who had led the team to a record-stretching 42nd domestic league crown. The Swiss coach also navigated the team to the semifinals of the Champions League before his departure.

Following a Covid-19-induced hiatus, the Champions League resumed and Mosimane took over the Red Devils’ reins.

Two months after the former Bafana Bafana midfielder’s arrival, the club won its ninth Champions League title, its first since 2013. A year later, they won La Decima (the 10th), a term coined in Spain when reigning European Champions Real Madrid won an elusive 10th continental title back in 2014.

“The 10th (star) is important. It is good for history, good for the archives,” said the coach at the time.

In the process, Mosimane also made history by becoming the first African coach to win this coveted crown on three separate occasions, having first won it with his former club Mamelodi Sundowns in 2016.

Ironically, Mosimane had also led Sundowns to their own La Decima before his departure for the Egyptian capital.

In the 2019/20 season, Masandawana claimed a record-extending 10th domestic league crown.

During his time in North Africa, the 57-year-old also guided the Red Devils to two consecutive Fifa Club World Cup bronze medals, the same number of CAF Super Cup triumphs, plus an Egyptian Cup and an Egyptian Super Cup. The Egyptian league proved elusive, though.

The former Bafana Bafana mentor narrowly missed out on being the first coach to win three successive Champions League titles when his side lost this season’s final to Moroccan giants Wydad Casablanca in Casablanca two months ago.

Depending on where he next lands up, he has an opportunity to equal the achievement of Ahly’s former coach Manuel José. The Portuguese mentor holds the record for the most CAF Champions League crowns, one ahead of second-placed Mosimane.

A big step up

Mosimane has acknowledged that coaching Al Ahly was a major step up from his time at Sundowns — where he won every domestic trophy available (bar the MTN8) and the Champions League crown.

“There is a difference between being in South Africa and here in Egypt. Here, I lead a team that is always expected to win trophies and awards. Al Ahly compete with teams such as Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid and Manchester United as the best club in the world, and last year they won the award for the biggest club in the Middle East and [are] a candidate this year,” he said after a year in the Red Devils’ hot seat.

“Here, you just have to win. It wasn’t like that for me. I would lose or draw and I might not win four games in a row. If that happens here, I don’t think I will remain in my position. You always have to win.”

His overall record during his time in Cairo saw him lead Ahly to 65 victories, 22 draws and only 10 defeats. In spite of that great record, Mosimane was constantly the subject of jibes from ex-Al Ahly players who felt — despite his achievements — that he was not fit to lead the club.

Retired Ahly players such as Wael Gomaa and former forward Taha Ismail took turns offering up their thoughts on how Mosimane was not the best fit for the record-holding African champions.

Where to now?

Mosimane has previously been linked with the Orlando Pirates job. However, considering his ambition to always set the benchmark, a move outside Africa could be on the cards.

Recent reports have also linked him with a switch to the United Arab Emirates. However, in a statement following his sudden departure from Egypt, his management team said they were still assessing the options available to the coach.

“It has been brought to our attention that there are rumours around coach Pitso Mosimane being in Qatar, insinuating that he has signed a deal with a new team,” the statement read.

“Coach Pitso and his technical team have not signed with a new team. The coaches will be heading back to South Africa in due course. Since parting ways with the former club, we have received a number of enquiries from various teams internationally and locally, including national teams.

“We have not committed the coaches to any teams as yet. Should there be any new developments regarding this matter, MT Sports will make an official announcement.” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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