JOHANNESBURG – So, Micho Sredojevic says he’s “totally in charge” at Orlando Pirates and his Mamelodi Sundowns counterpart Pitso Mosimane, coach of the reigning Absa Premiership champions, insists his team remains a work in progress.
Sredojevic was reacting to ongoing suggestions over the last several weeks that his assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena, and not the Serbian mentor, was the one pulling the strings in the technical area.
The fracas at Loftus Versfeld in the goalless draw between hosts Sundowns and the Buccaneers further fuelled the fires - Mokwena at the centre of a security breach after one of the home supporters jumped barricades to confront him in the dugout.
Sure, the Pirates assistant did provoke the fans moments earlier, but what if this man had a knife? Where were the guards?
By full time, Mokwena was again trending on social media, Sredojevic again in the background but being left to be the spokesperson.
The Tuesday prior to Pirates travelling to Tshwane to face the title holders, Mokwena appeared to tell a player to disregard Sredojevic’s instructions during their 2-1 victory over Polokwane City to help them stay top of the log.
At the time of the game, Bongani Zungu, a player now based in France who’s worked with Mokwena at Sundowns before that, then tweeted that the assistant coach was responsible for turning the Buccaneers around - like he did at Sundowns.
He apologised the following morning, but the damage was done. Sredojevic had to clean up the mess in his post match press conference on Saturday.
“I need to tell you something. If a player that I made, Nemanja Matic (Manchester United midfielder), has done this to any coach I would personally slap him,” the Pirates coach said, also taking credit for Matic’s development.
“But it doesn’t matter what anyone says because I know that I am totally in charge as a head coach and have a strong team that I am helped to lead by my assistant coach Rhulani. These are just people making creations.”
When the spotlight moved away from Sredojevic, it was Mosimane’s turn to put out fires about how he reacted to one of his club supporters charging at the Pirates bench and attacking Mokwena and also explain away why the Brazilians have such a poor record at home this season.
“We know how to win championships. We know it’s going to take some time, but this is a marathon. Somebody else can take the lead, but you wait and when it’s your time to come up you take it and stay there. We have some games in hand.”