JOHANNESBURG – You would think the close shave with relegation had somehow humbled Kgoloko Thobejane. But the Baroka FC coach is in his element yet again, showing he didn’t quite learn the hard lessons last season, or at least giving the impression he’d ignored whatever lessons were there for him to prepare for a second season in the top flight.
His statements are also perhaps an indictment on the entire club philosophy, Thobejane’s naivety fed from above and showing an institution not quite sure of its place in local football. Maybe with another campaign things will change?
Baroka will do well to learn from their rivals in the bottom half of the table, a side like Free State Stars, who aren’t struggling with their identity. As ambitious as I am sure Stars are, you will never hear the Bethlehem-based outfit owners screaming at the top of their lungs that “we are going to win everything on offer”. Yet they have been in this game for decades, much longer than Baroka and their overzealous coach.
It is understandable that Thobejane yearns to be a serial winner, but, unfortunately for him, the club’s resources and inexperience at this level just doesn’t make room for that. The coach, however, remains deluded. He’s gone from charming – a breath of fresh air when he was first introduced to us as Baroka gallantly fought to gain promotion more than a year ago – to nauseating, with statements that paint him as an attention-seeker who is far from being in touch with the reality of the Premier Soccer League.
Juxtapose that with Stars, who also very nearly got relegated or dragged into the play-offs but avoided that thanks to a superior goal difference.
They are looking for a new coach following the decision not to renew Serame Letsoaka’s contract, while Thobejane looks likely to keep his job. Unbelievable.
Ea Lla Koto’s candidate for a replacement is Jean Francios Lusciuto, a man who very nearly achieved the unthinkable when he arrived at Black Leopards in November last year with the club in 13th place, and led them all the way to second spot in the National First Division, securing a play-off spot and losing out to Baroka in the quest for promotion to the elite league. This imminent appointment could prove to be a hit or a miss, time will tell, but Stars are already planning for next season and have not only told Letsoaka his services are no longer required, but as many as eight players are on their way out.
And what did Thobejane say about beefing up a squad that clearly needs fresh faces?
“I am just a coach. It is up to management to decide if we want new players. As for me, I believe in getting 11 players on to the field. It does not matter which they are, as long as I can have 11 players I will get them to play.”
A few seconds earlier he’d declared that Baroka “want to win everything”. Meanwhile, back in Bethlehem, where a side with more history – but probably as limited in resources as Baroka – resides, the mentality is survival mode and they are ready to go again.
It is highly likely that these two teams will be caught up in the relegation dogfight yet again during the 2017/18 season, but at least one of them is ready for the scrap – and its not Baroka.