JOHANNESBURG - While Jomo Sono only has a silver medal from continental competitions, the legendary figure has produced players and a coach who have gold medals from Africa’s most prestigious competitions.
Sono had a hand in three of the four major continental titles South Africa boasts. That Midas touch could also help SuperSport United bring another continental title in their quest for the Caf Confederation Cup against TP Mazembe, starting with a trip to Lubumbashi on Sunday before hosting the return leg of the final at Lucas Moripe Stadium on 25 November.
Sono could only lead Bafana Bafana to a second-place finish at the Africa Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso in 1998 as a coach. But the team that conquered the continent in 1996 had six graduates of the “Sono School”. Helman Mkhalele, Mark Fish, Phil Masinga, Mark Williams, Augustine Makalakalane and Linda Buthelezi all started their professional careers at Jomo Cosmos before winning the Afcon in 1996.
Orlando Pirates also benefited from Ezenkosi. Mkhalele and Fish joined Pirates in 1994 after Cosmos were relegated the year before. The two were instrumental in the Buccaneers lifting the African Cup of Champions Clubs (now known as the Champions League) in 1995. Just over two decades later another Sono student conquered the continent.
Pitso Mosimane, who led Mamelodi Sundowns to their first Champions League title last year, was spotted and given his big break by the Cosmos boss and coach - Sono. Anthony Laffor, who scored Sundowns’ first goal in the final against Zamalek, was brought in the country by Sono.
“You look at the players he has developed and you’re immediately in awe of the eye for talent he has,” SuperSport’s versatile player and Cosmos graduate Siyabonga Nhlapo said. “I felt privileged when he signed me because I knew who he had spotted before me, and how they went on to play at the highest level for club and country.”
Nhlapo is not the only Cosmos product at SuperSport. Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Morgan Gould, who are suspended for the first leg against Mazembe, also started their professional careers at Cosmos before winning every trophy on offer in South Africa. Only a continental trophy is missing in their impressive list of accolades.
“I always imagine what Cosmos would have been like had he kept some of his best players a bit longer. They could have been unstoppable,” Nhlapo said. “But that’s what he does, he finds talent, nurtures it and allows it to go and achieve bigger things elsewhere.
"Morgan was a striker when he joined Cosmos and he turned him to one of the best defenders in the country. 'Yeye' was a creative playmaker when he joined Cosmos who wasn’t strong defensively, but he worked on his defensive aspects to become one of the most well-rounded players around. I owe everything I have and achieved to 'Bra J'.”