With love or hate - All hail King Pitso!
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JOHANNESBURG - Even by his standards, Pitso Mosimane is awe-struck!
“They believe in me. What a change and transformation. But I am humbled to be here and I am loved here. Sorry, I’ve been treated like a king in this place,” he said.
There may not be a single soul of his thousand red worshippers in sight, but the lavish hotel room that Mosimane relaxed in, sipping his customary coffee one early Thursday morning in Cairo – where he addressed the members of the South African Football Journalists Association – was befitting for a king.
Pun intended. After all, the man is really a King of African football. Not once but twice. And his latest triumph in the continent came after inspiring the African Club of the Century Al Ahly to their record ninth Champions League crown.
Granted, Mosimane took over the reins at the Red Devils with the team already in the semi-finals of the Pan-African competition, but after defeating rivals Wydad Casablanca 5-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals and Zamalek SC 2-1 in the final, that, surely, spoke volumes of the man’s brilliance as a tactician.
But always trust Mosimane to tell you that his rivals know him very well: “They know who I am and what kind of football that I brought. I’m not here because somebody put a word for me to another president of the club and suddenly, I am appointed.”
After all, he was the mastermind who turned former club Mamelodi Sundowns into a force in the continent after winning his first Champions League title in 2016.
That success also came at the expense of the White Knights. But Mosimane’s initial cheerleaders were the supporters of Moroccan giants Wydad. Remember when they chanted his name after Sundowns held their team to a goalless draw last year?
It was a rare but mind blowing sight for African football. Mosimane told me, soon thereafter, that his domestic and international coaching experience – from SuperSport United, Bafana Bafana and Sundowns – fuelled such scenes.
“I am happy that I’ve done both, club and national team. So, I’ve got the experience. That’s why I went to Bafana to be honest. I need to be an all-inclusive. Sometimes they say ‘ja, but he’s never coached the national team or vice versa’.”
Mosimane has always been driven by passion. But he knew that passion alone was not enough. And that’s why he deemed himself “as not lucky but very fortunate” when he was appointed as one of four guest coaches in the continent to undergo the CAF Pro Licence in Morocco.
That combination, of passion and education, has entrenched Mosimane in the record books. He won the Telkom Knockout, DStv Premiership and Nedbank Cup at Sundowns, while he also bagged the Champions League and Egyptian Cup at Al Ahly.
Even during his illustrious reign at Sundowns, Mosimane wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, specifically the supporters of his then-rivals – who deemed him a “sore loser or big headed because he benefited from the deep pockets of president Patrice Motsepe”.
But on the count of a single hand how many of his European “overqualified” predecessors – which include Johan Neeskens, Henri Michel and Hristo Stoichkov came close to replicating his success during Motsepe’s regime?
Since his departure from Sundowns, Mosimane has been accused by some members of the Kabo Yellow Nation that he’s behind Gaston Sirino’s request to leave the club for the Egyptian giants.
But Mosimane was quick to remind the Brazilians’ supporters that football is an ecosystem, players move from one place to the other – and the reason Sundowns are thriving since his departure is because “I signed all those (new) players … I made sure that I left the team in a better place”. Proper clapback.
What has made Mosimane stand head and shoulders above his counterparts is that he's not afraid to speak his mind. That has got him into hot water a couple of times – either with the “love letters” from fellow coaches who accused him of tapping up players or the PSL disciplinary committee for bringing the league into disre pute.
But the man has learnt his lesson, alright! “You (media) have supported me along the way. I am not saying that because I am talking on this platform (Safja). I learnt my lessons early. I’ve made my mistakes and corrected them,” he suggested.
Well, I suppose – with love or hate – but "All hail King Pitso Mosimane!"