CAPE TOWN – Cavin Johnson is originally from Gauteng and is now offering his coaching expertise to AmaZulu in Durban, but to many in the shadow of Table Mountain he is an honorary Capetonian.
His stellar work in the Ajax Cape Town youth academy, as a coach and a scout, is still fondly remembered in the Mother City - and there is many a Cape footballer who owes his progress and maturity in the sport to the knowledge and influence of the 59-year-old Johnson.
Initially known as a youth coach, with one of the best eyes for talent, he rapidly gained prominence in the PSL with stints at Platinum Stars and SuperSport United. Now at AmaZulu, he has just one objective in mind: to make his team as successful as he can.
Johnson is preparing AmaZulu for two tricky fixtures against Cape Town City this coming week: the opening round of the Telkom Knockout at the Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban on Tuesday, and then a league game at the Cape Town Stadium next Saturday. As he pondered his options and plans, he paid tribute to the fantastic work of young Cape Town coaches like City’s Benni McCarthy and Maritzburg United’s Fadlu and Maahier Davids.
It’s all about the passage of time. Ten or 15 years ago, Johnson was the up-and-coming young coach when he brought his philosophy of playing good, entertaining football to the PSL. Now, he’s the veteran, and McCarthy and the Davids brothers are the new kids on the coaching block; the baton has been handed over.
Johnson, though, is chuffed that such young South African coaches are starting to make their mark in the PSL, and he wants to see more of it.
“I’m privileged to be able to say that I’ve known Benni, Fadlu and Maahier as youngsters, when they were just starting out their playing careers,” said Johnson. “They’ve always shown potential. Both Fadlu and Maahier are introverts, but deep thinkers about the game, and I’m not surprised that they have grown as coaches.
“I have to admit that Benni’s success as a coach is a bit of a surprise. As a player, he had no peer in South Africa, he’s won the Uefa Champions League, and he’s now using that experience as a coach. But looking at Benni the player, and his character, you would never say that he would one day be a coach. But he’s taken to it so well. He is one of the country’s bright and best young coaches, and I’m sure he will continue to get better with every season.”
While the AmaZulu coach acknowledged that City would be a difficult opponent, his team’s home form gives him confidence ahead of Tuesday’s Cup match.
“Against City, we’ve got one home game (Tuesday) and one away (Saturday), and we will have to be fully prepared,” said Johnson. “Benni has them playing really well and I have to say, of all the teams in the PSL, I like watching City the best. I love the way they play, they play good football, so I’m sure we are going to have our work cut out if we are to get the better of them.
“But we are at home, and we have not lost at home this season. We are also a team that likes to play football - and I always find that when you play against a team like City then you can prepare. You know what they do; they won’t compromise on their style, on playing good football, and that allows us a few options to work with. We will put up a good game and I’m sure that, with both teams out to play, it will make for a great occasion.”
For Johnson, there’s still a way to go at AmaZulu. He’s taking things one game at a time, but he believes that, in time to come, the Durban side will be a real force to be reckoned with.
“At AmaZulu, we are in the process of building, and I can tell you we are building with big blocks,” he said. “Our home form is solid; we should really have beaten Pirates the last time, we were just a bit unfortunate. But I’m looking forward to Tuesday’s clash against City, especially because it’s at home, and I’m confident that we will give our supporters a good spectacle.”