JOHANNESBURG – Giovanni Solinas returns to Bethlehem tonight, the sleepy town where he first encountered South African football more than two years ago, as head coach of one of the biggest clubs in the continent, Kaizer Chiefs.
Much of the criticism over his appointment two months ago as Amakhosi mentor stems from the fact there are few noteworthy achievements from his end, making him a bizarre choice for the Chiefs hot seat.
While his former employers have enjoyed unprecedented success from last season’s Nedbank Cup triumph and sixth place finish in the Absa Premiership, Solinas was a forgotten man in these shores until he was named coach of the Glamour Boys in one of the most underwhelming announcements for some time.
In the wilderness
Solinas’ whereabouts between June 2017 and July 13, 2018 are unaccounted for. He became the first Italian to ever coach in the Premier Soccer League when first hired by Stars, a stint which lasted only five months as the coach cited personal reasons for quitting.
But he was back for a second bite at the cherry after his successor, Frenchman Denis Lavagne, proved to be a poor appointment.
However, Solinas wasn’t much of an improvement either when he was roped in to save the day.
And it wasn’t a surprise that he would soon pack his bags and jump straight back into oblivion. His CV suggests that he quickly found a job in Saudi Arabia with Al-Faisaly, but there is not a full account of what actually happened there. Was he fired after three months or was the original agreement a short-term spell to begin with?
Nonetheless, all this paints a picture of an underachiever.
Turning the tide at Chiefs
With one win in eight matches from all competitions before thrashing Cape Town City 4-1 on Saturday, Amakhosi looked to be in trouble. But Solinas received a ringing endorsement from his boss Kaizer Motaung.
Perhaps lifted by the chairman’s words, which praised the coach’s work ethic among other things, the Glamour Boys ran riot in the Mother City to register their first league win of the season - and is some style.
So the trip to Goble Park, where it all began for Solinas, comes at a time when his charges are beginning to click.
Stars on the other hand are suffering from the second season syndrome, having managed one victory from five league matches, as well being eliminated from the MTN8 at the hands of Chiefs.
It would be a sweet victory if they can turn the corner, but if Solinas can get his players to carry the momentum then this should easily be a memorable homecoming for the 50-year-old.