JOHANNESBURG - Micho Sredojevic has explained why he refuses to take the bait that Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has been dangling over Orlando Pirates by provoking them to openly talk about their championship desires.
“I am happy with my brother Pitso,” Sredojevic said. “We watched Enyimba and Bidvest Wits together. First of all, I have the highest degree of respect for this country - regarding its culture, tradition, style of life, your habits and everything else. As a foreigner I am here to help.
"Together with the technical team at Pirates, we are rebuilding and bringing stability to the team. I have no right to entertain other things, these mind games and whatever. We would lose focus on the bigger picture if I were to do that. Our focus is exclusively on our performance.”
The Buccaneers have been conservative in their analysis of their title credentials, arguing that Sundowns have already won the league so their focus is on finishing better than they did last season.
Mosimane called Pirates’ bluff by saying they are in the league race, arguing that Sredojevic indirectly said so when he admitted they couldn’t afford to draw with Bloemfontein Celtic. The Sea Robbers came from behind to sail to victory in that match.
But they drew 0-0 with their hoodoo team SuperSport United at Mbombela Stadium on Wednesday. That draw has given Sundowns an advantage as the Brazilians lead the race by three points with a game in hand.
“I have the highest degree of respect (for Mosimane),” Sredojevic said. “We don’t want to enter that (talk of the championship or whether Sundowns have an advantage). We are looking at ourselves. We don’t think about anyone else but ourselves. We are focusing on Sunday’s game (against AmaZulu), we don’t think about anything else.
"We don’t want to enter into exchanges in the media. We are in a process of returning the team where it is supposed to be all the time and keep it there. We had an unfortunate period that in the last couple of seasons we haven’t been in the top three. We haven’t won a trophy since 2014.
"We have rebuilt the team. We have brought stability and we are on the right road, this is what is injecting us with motivation to work harder and do more without thinking about anyone else. We are only thinking about ourselves.”
The match against AmaZulu will come a day after Sundowns have squared off with Bidvest Wits which means the Buccaneers will go into it knowing what they need to do to keep up in the league race. Even though Pirates returned with just a point from Mpumalanga, their fans weren’t that entirely disappointed as they were pleased by the fighting spirit the team now possesses.
“This year we’ve started to come together as a unit. We are still not where we want to be. But when you see the progress in the aspect of improving our mental strength, we are getting there," Sredojevic added.
"I need to give credit to my brother (assistant coach) Rhulani (Mokwena), regarding the aspect of theoretical awareness - knowing everything about our opponents and correcting ourselves in order to get better each match. To be mentally strong, this is what big teams are supposed to have. You take that, add being physically fit and tactically competitive - you get a winning team.”