JOHANNESBURG – While most of the Kaizer Chiefs faithful lamented Orlando Pirates deputy coach Rulani Mokwena’s pre Soweto-derby comments as “disrespectful’’, head coach Micho Sredojevic has tipped him to achieve the same fate with Pirates as Sir Alex Ferguson did with Manchester United.
In his illustrious 27-year tenure at United, Ferguson won 38 trophies with the Red-Devils - which included 13 Premiership titles.
Last Monday - prior to the derby clash with their arch-rivals this Saturday - Mokwena said Chiefs’ current style lacked a tactical approach under coach Giovanni Solinas while, that’s something that was easily accomplished under his mentor and friend Steve Komphela.
“Pirates will be there with or without me,” Sredojevic said at their 2-1 win post-match conference against Chiefs. “Beside me, there is a person (Rulani Mokwena) that I believe one day - like in athletics - I’ll give him the relay (baton) to go all the way to last the same longevity of Alex Ferguson. We are working and he’s growing, I am so happy and proud to be working him with him.”
One of the reasons Sredojevic backed Mokwena to succeed at the Sea Robbers is because his relationship with the club goes far beyond employer and employee. Mokwena, is after all, Eric Sono’s grandson, Jomo’s nephew and Julius’ son - as a result, he builds on the trio’s historic legacy with the club.
“I’m humbled to be given the responsibility to wear the same badge as my father, uncle and grandfather. I find a lot of solace and peace knowing I am contributing to something bigger than myself. I am extremely happy at Orlando Pirates,” Mokwena said in May amid speculation linking him to clubs such as SuperSport United and Polokwane City.
However, if the union between Sredojevic and Mokwena - who are in their second season together - is to end in a ‘happily-ever-after’, they know that they have to collect silverware this campaign and end the club’s four-year barren run. Their start has been unconvincing though, as they’ve only secured 19 points out of 33.
Having already missed out of the MTN8, their hopes are revived by the ongoing Telkom Knockout and Absa Premiership. With the CAF Champions League and Nedbank Cup set to follow, the 49-year-old Serbian-born coach believes they’ll bag a trophy this season.
“Before I came here, social media was full of jokes towards Orlando Pirates. They were punching us left and right (about the trophy-less streak),” he said. “We came together and had a good season but I promised myself that I won’t focus on last season anymore.
The way matches are coming this season, every one of them is important in the sense that we have no right to get carried away. At the end of the season, we’ll then see if things will satisfy the most demanding and loyal supporters. They push us in all human sporting-limits to make them happy.”
This weekend, Pirates are away to AmaZulu for the Telkom Knockout quarter-finals.