DURBAN – Unless they win the Nedbank Cup, Orlando Pirates could well experience yet another barren season. And with their bitter rivals Kaizer Chiefs looking good to end their own long drought by lifting the league championship to mark their 50th anniversary celebration, failure to deposit a trophy into the cabinet would be hard for The Ghost to swallow.
What does club chairman Irvin Khoza think of what is happening at Pirates? The Iron Duke answered a wide range of questions from Independent Media soccer scribe Minenhle Mkhize.
Minenhle Mkhize (MM): The club has endured a topsy-turvy season and we are only midway. What is it that will make the chairman happy come the end of the season?
Irvin Khoza (IK): The chairman will be happy if we win something come the end of the season. But we don't want to create huge expectations. Supporters are happy with our recent results and that's what we want on a consistent basis. We want to give it our all in the league and in the cup (Nedbank Cup).
MM: Is that the specific mandate for coach Josef Zinnbauer?
IK: Pirates is a big club. The mandate at any big club is to win trophies. You must win something at big clubs. But we can't just talk about mandates. The guy is just trying to adjust himself. Here we are not talking about a coach who had a pre-season or whatever. He didn't do any pre-season. He has just started. We can't talk about mandates when he joined us in the middle of the season. He didn't have proper preparation, why do we now talk about mandates? The guy has to stabilise the team.
MM: How difficult was it to get Zinnbauer, chairman?
IK: It was not easy, especially because the season was on. Most of the coaches are engaged. It was difficult for us to finalise the issue of a coach because everyone is contracted. But we are a global team. We are known worldwide. For now, we just want the coach to settle down and hit the ground running.
The fixture of January is congested that whatever you want to apply is going to be difficult (to instil). You have to respond to the fixtures. They are not easy games all of them. So, you can't make predictions and assessments right now. He must familiarise himself with the structure we have. We are just trying to make sure that he adjusts quickly and gives us the desired impact.
Obviously you can't talk about impact after three games. You can't talk about that.
MM: The masses were questioning the choice of Zinnbauer with many questioning his CV and record. How did you handle that and what convinced you that this is the man to steer the Buccaneers’ ship forward?
IK: Who was saying that?
MM: The masses, chairman.
IK: Football is a game of opinions. Being a game of opinions, any coach is a good coach at the end of the season. You look at Manchester United, they appointed Louis Van Gaal and what happened? (Jose) Mourinho was appointed. They all had credentials. What are you talking about? Football is what happened at the end of the season. Even then, the coach is not the only solution.
Hiring a coach is not like drinking a panado in anticipation that the headache will go away. All the coaches that have achieved, the likes of Mourinho and Van Gaal couldn't last at Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is trying to cope at the moment. It is not easy. Manuel Pellegrini is experienced. He has credentials. What happened? (He was fired by West Ham United).
You can't come up with theories and make measurements. The most important thing is a structure. You can have a coach but if there's no structure then it is a problem. The coach alone can't be a problem. Have a structure so that when the new coach comes in, he can be able to come up with his own ideas.
Whenever there's a structure you can allow him to express his own ideas. Right now we are talking about Ernst Middendorp. We are singing his praises. We don't want to do things in a manner that is consistent and measured. In the PSL, we've got coaches who have the records but haven't won the league.
Coaches have been recycled. Our coach is not recycled. Brandon Rodgers couldn't deliver trophies at Liverpool and he left, joined Celtic in Scotland and he won all the trophies there in spite of his Liverpool record.
MM: But you've had so many coaches in a short space of time. Why is that so?
IK: It is not us. The team is big. There's a pressure that goes with it. Pirates never fires any coach. Coaches leave Pirates. It is not us who fire the coaches. Am I correct? The institution is big. We only enter into contracts and there are obligations from both sides. Coaches chose to leave. That's the big challenge we have.
MM: Why was Rhulani Mokwena not given more time as an interim coach and we haven't seen him recently, is he still part of the team?
IK: At any team an interim coach is an interim coach. When the head coach departs you have to appoint an interim coach. It could be the same guy getting the job, or the another guy getting appointed. We've got confidence in the boy. He has got potential. He has asked for a study leave and we granted him that because it is for his growth and the club. He is still part of the technical team.
MM: Are you likely to beef up the squad in this transfer window market?
IK: The only challenge we have now is our defence but there are no players in the market. That's where we are looking (to beef up).
MM: Chairman is there a succession plan that is put in place in case you decide to retire in future?
IK: That is a topic for another day. How do you retire in football? Must I retire from my business? Remember, I'm not employed here. This is my business. Why do I have to retire from something I spent the rest of my life in? Why? Must I retire and then do what? Die? Stay under the tree. Did they ask where will Nelson Mandela retire?
MM: Chairman, maybe you didn't get my question right, I'm not saying that you should retire but I'm talking about grooming young future leaders.
IK: But we are in the middle of the season. Are you tired of me in football now? Do you want me out of football? We can't talk about what will happen. Let us talk about what is happening. We still have a lot of challenges in football and I want to contribute. Why can't we talk about the good things that we've done instead of talking about retirement. Let us work on solving the current issues at the moment.