JOHANNESBURG – The glue that binds Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic and Rhulani Mokwena together, and could see them stand the test of time at Orlando Pirates, is the love they have for the club.
Buccaneers chairman Irvin Khoza likes to say that entering into a partnership with a coach is like an arranged marriage; you go into it hoping for the best.
But the club’s last two coaching appointments, Muhsin Ertugral and Kjell Jonevret, were “one-night stands”. They didn’t last that long.
Eric Tinkler, Roger de Sa and Julio Leal before them lasted a bit longer but those were flings.
It’s only Ruud Krol who tried to make an honest “man” out of Pirates in the past decade. His three-year union produced three trophies and laid the foundation for the treble that followed after he left.
Sredojevic and Mokwena will look to emulate or better that longevity and success.
“I always say that the target for any coach at Pirates is the history,” Khoza said.
“How are you going to help improve the history of Pirates? We don’t put targets because Pirates have their own targets.
“We have achieved everything. When we won the African Champions’ Cup (in 1995), we motivated Bafana Bafana (to win the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations). When we won back-to-back trebles, we motivated the other teams to do well.
“You can see now how the other teams are doing well so that they also get a star in the continent.
“Just before the NPSL was formalised, Pirates in the South African Soccer League were the team. For all these years we have been at the forefront of the competitions to ensure that we are a rabbit to be chased.”
Last season Pirates were a tortoise, watching their rivals speed past them in a miserable showing.
The club’s technical team that’s led by men who love Pirates are looking to change that.
“Micho” describes himself as a Pirates’ fan before he is their coach and calls Khoza his football father.
Pirates run through the veins of Sredojevic’s second-in-command, Mokwena. He is after all Eric “Scara” Sono’s grandson, Julius “KK” Sono’s son and Jomo Sono’s nephew.
Mokwena penned a moving letter explaining why he left reigning African champions Mamelodi Sundowns for a team that registered their worst finish in the PSL era.
Mokwena wrote he joined Pirates to “ease the pain of this sleeping giant, wipe my late grandfather’s tears and allow him to continue resting in peace by responding to the call from a club that continues to live in him.”
“For Rhulani, being here is emotional,” Khoza said.
“His family tree has incredible history embedded in this club. He would like to create his own legacy because his grandfather, uncle (and father) are great icons of this team.
“When you talk about Pirates, you can’t mess up with that surname. He is still maturing but the attitude is right because the man wants to learn all the time.
“The man has no time for niceties. He just wants to throw himself in the deep end, which is the attitude of a winner.
“If you do that and you aren’t scared of failing, then you have a good chance of succeeding in life because you must be criticised for you to grow. He is prepared to be criticised.”
Khoza continued: “My coach came here with a small suitcase the first time. Now he has a branded Gucci case. He is a branded man now.”
While Micho and Mokwena’s relationship with their club is strong, Bernard Molekwa faces uncertain times at Polokwane City having gone on a four-match losing streak.
Molekwa will look to change that today at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Rise and Shine’s clash with Pirates.
Failure to do that could lead to his axing.
Saturday: Ajax Cape Town v Cape Town City, Golden Arrows v Chippa United, both 3pm; Kaizer Chiefs v Baroka FC, 6pm; Polokwane City v Orlando Pirates, 8.15pm.
Sunday: Platinum Stars v Mamelodi Sundowns, Bloemfontein Celtic v Bidvest Wits, both 3pm.