It is difficult to feel much empathy for Johan Neeskens. Neeskens was reportedly in tears on Sunday, as he left Patrice Motsepe’s office following his sacking from Sundowns. If so, that was probably more emotion than he presented publicly in his entire time in charge at Choorklop. The Sundowns coach put out a terse figure in front of the media, a man rarely capable of cracking a smile, and lacking severely in humility.
In what was to prove his final pre-match press conference, ahead of Saturday’s Telkom Knockout final, Neeskens delivered an ill-advised rant at the media, accusing them of being overly critical of his team, and claiming his Brazilians deserved acknowledgment for reaching two cup finals. Never mind that they were second from bottom of the Absa Premiership.
Neeskens wanted respect, but was not willing to respect in return. There is no doubt the Dutch legend was a footballing great as a player, part of the Dutch side that reached two World Cup finals (though in an interesting piece of symmetrical irony, they, like his Sundowns, also lost both).
As a coach, however, he has done little to douse the old adage that a great player does not necessarily make a good coach. Under him this season, Sundowns have slumped to an impossible position for a team of their wealth and talent.
Motsepe’s patience, it seems, finally snapped after Saturday’s cup final defeat to Bloemfontein Celtc. But by his standards, Motsepe was patience personified with Neeskens. He could have got the boot a lot earlier.
Enter Pitso Mosimane. It will be fascinating to see if the former Bafana Bafana coach can turn fortunes around at Sundowns. Mosimane also lost his grip on humility towards the end of his Bafana career, putting on increasingly stubborn and unreasonable face after a series of bad results.
And yet here is an able coach, more than capable of grace and charm, who should be able to use all his experience of the pressures of the Bafana job in the fiery furnace at Sundowns. It should certainly be no problem for him, having worked with Bafana, to handle the big egos that tend to fly at the top of the national game.
Mosimane will walk into a slightly different atmosphere than he did with Bafana, and certainly at his previous club, SuperSport United. If there is a club in South Africa that screams stability in its technical team and club structures, it is SuperSport. If there is a club in South Africa that screams the opposite, it is Sundowns.
But if Mosimane can deal with all the politics, and win over the fans with a couple of early wins, I believe he could prove to be a resounding success. – The Star