No one, however, could have predicted that disaster would follow so quickly, with the Buccaneers dropping out of the 2019/20 Caf Champions League in the very first qualifying round.
There were mitigating circumstances, in the sense that their head coach Milutin Sredojevic walked out of the club, to take up a lucrative offer at Zamalek in Egypt, midway through the tie against Green Eagles, and it remains a mystery exactly how much was known about the Serbian’s imminent departure when the Buccaneers lost the first leg 1-0 in Zambia.
Yet Pirates should really have been able to turn the tie around at home, with Rulani Mokwena, a very capable coach, in the hot-seat, and a squad of star players at his disposal. Pirates made a spate of new signings ahead the start of the season, which clearly had in mind balancing a run at the Absa Premiership with a run on the continent.
Apart perhaps from Mamelodi Sundowns, it is safe to say that no South African club craves continental success like the Buccaneers do, and it cannot have done Mokwena’s chances of keeping the head coach’s position permanently, that he couldn’t come up with a plan to see off Eagles on Saturday night.
Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza has certainly only occasionally given local coaches a chance at Pirates over the years with Eric Tinkler and Roger De Sa springing to mind, and the Pirates chairman could well pull another target from Europe out of the hat in the coming weeks, especially if Pirates continue this downward spiral, one that has also seen them knocked out of the MTN8 by Highlands Park, and hammered 3-0 in the league by SuperSport United.
I personally think Mokwena deserves a chance to show what he can do, but in reality I feel this Champions League embarrassment may well have hastened his move back to an assistant’s role.
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