Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pitso Mosimane is no joke: Sundowns could be level with Kaizer Chiefs by Sunday

Always happy to make his point: Pitso Mosimane

Pitso Mosimane makes us laugh. Pitso Mosimane makes us cry. But for all his post-match entertainment, it’s time to stop treating the 49-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns coach as a joke.

After Tuesday night’s emphatic 3-1 defeat of Platinum Stars – only Alan Freese’s second defeat at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium this season – Masandawana are now just three points behind Kaizer Chiefs, though the holders have a game in hand.

With Chiefs caught in the middle of an African Champions League firestorm – they lost 3-0 against AS Vita in Kinshasa last week and face an improbable mission to claw that deficit back at Soccer City on Saturday – the AmaKhosi have plenty to worry about.

And Mosimane will be waiting to pounce at the slightest hiccup. Goals from Surprise Moriri, Anthony Laffor and Lebohang Mokoena – prompted by a resurgence from Teko Modise in Khama Billiat’s injury-enforced absence – enabled Sundowns to do what Stuart Baxter couldn’t against the Dikwena a few weeks ago, when Chiefs lost 2-0 in the North West.

And, as always, Mosimane entertained us with his post-match analysis. Already he’s talked this season about his players “eating grass and sweating blood” but this time we were told: "I have never worked so hard on one game like this. I have never spent so long on my little CD player in the bus.

"This was the game I really wanted to win, it was so important. Coming here before and playing Platinum Stars, we haven't gotten what we deserve. Tonight we got respect.

"Yes, this was one of my best games at Sundowns. Tactically we were spot on. We killed their wingplay, we closed them down, we were pressing from the top.

"This one I've earned, I give the credit to… myself."

It’s tempting to laugh when Pitso comes out with such self-glorifying clap-trap. But think about it. Mosimane’s Sundowns were too much for Dutch legend Johan Neeskens. He couldn’t cope with the pressure of running megarich Patrice Motsepe’s millionaires, just like Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov and Spaniard Antonio Lopez Habas before him.

With a host of coaches, accountants, managers and technicians putting their oar in, Sundowns have failed to win the PSL title since the glory years of 2006 and 2007 when they won back-to-back championships.

Sacked: Bafana boss Pitso
Pitso himself spent six years at neighbouring SuperSport United, only to leave in service of his country, allowing Gavin Hunt to surge to THREE successive PSL titles  with Matsatsantsa a Pitori immediately after Mosimane’s departure.

Mosimane served as Bafana’s caretaker and as an assistant under Carlos Alberto Parreira and Joel Santana in the build-up to the 2010 World Cup, dealing with language problems, misinformation and high expectations before he was fired for narrowly failing to qualify, despite that awful victory dance, for AFCON 2012 (he unfairly took the blame for misreading the rules) and drawing with Ethiopia at home in the first game of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

But in truth, Mosimane’s 24-month reign as national coach wasn’t that bad at all. In 16 attempts, He won six, drew seven and lost just three, a record as good as any who have attempted to steer the national side in the right direction since the heady days of 1996.

Now he stands on the verge of greatness once more. He won the Super 8 (2004) and Nedbank Cup (2005) at SuperSport and has steadied the ship with a Nedbank Cup semi-final appearance last season after taking over from Neeskens.

But the PSL title would cap anything he has achieved before, not bad for a bloke who grew up playing “street football” on the dusty roads of Kagiso as a kid.

Pitso was spotted as a player at amateur outfit Rockville Hungry Lions by Jomo Sono and Stanley “Screamer” Tshabalala, making his deut for Jomo Cosmos at 18 before he became the most expensive player in the country when he moved to Mamelodi Sundowns – who else? – in 1985.

He won the League and Mainstay Cup double that season but returned to Cosmos, where he scored 11 goals in their only title-winning season, 1987.

After a brief stint at Orlando Pirates, in 1989, Pitso played in Greece for six years at Ionikos FC before playing for Begium’s Rita Berlaar and Qatar’s Al Saad FC Doh. He was capped four times by South Africa and scored on his debut against against Mauritius in the African Cup of Nations Qualifiers in 1993.

Pitso Mosimane started his coaching career in 1999 at the Soweto football academy Barney Molokane – SuperSport took four of his players and eventually Mosimane himself, first as a scout, then as head coach in 2000.

He was named South Africa’s Coach of the Year in the 2004/2005 season  but in 14 years of trying, he has yet to win the big one. As he so eloquently put it after the 4-1 Nedbank Cup win over Golden Arrows last weekend: “The team is good. The team is strong. The team shows integrity. A lot of people are writing us off.

“We wish we could make everybody happy, but we are okay. We are on the road all the time. We are building on the road and collecting victories. We will see.”

With AmaTuks to play on Sunday, Sundowns could be level with Chiefs before we know it. And nobody will be laughing.

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  1. Nice take, Neal - as always. I wish he was coaching Pirates! @ThatsSenzo

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