Pitso rings the right note

Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane. Pic: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

“Jingles” – or Pitso John Hamilton Mosimane if you’re being formal – has been called many names by both his fans and detractors in his 15-year coaching career. But last week Tuesday everyone called him by just one: Champion.

Because he guided Mamelodi Sundowns to their record sixth Absa Premiership title – and became the first black South African coach to win the league. It was fitting for a man who was the first to have played for and coached Bafana Bafana.

Ah, Bafana Bafana – that’s where Mosimane’s star was supposed to shine the brightest. It started well when he guided the national team past the 2010 World Cup quarterfinalists Ghana. But that dance in Mbombela Stadium, where Bafana Bafana celebrated a false qualification for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, undid all his good work.

He still reacts with paranoia at criticism; something that lingers from those Bafana Bafana days that ended two years ago.

Sundowns fans sent SOS messages to Mosimane, calling on him to come and rescue the club after they had ensured Johan Neeskens got the axe. The Kagiso-born mentor heard the call and made the trek to Chloorkop.

He took over a Sundowns outfit that was second from bottom and came close to finishing in the top eight with them. Mosimane described his quest as “looking to awaken the sleeping giant of South African football: Sundowns”. It’s a club that hadn’t lifted the Premiership’s cup in seven years.

At club level, he once held the transfer record for the most expensive player in 1996 when he joined them from Jomo Cosmos. Mosimane enjoyed the flexible chequebook and brought in players like Khama Billiat, Thabo Nthethe, Dove Wome, Kennedy Mweene and Cuthbert Malajila.

When the injuries came, Mosimane had good replacements waiting.

But that’s not what set him apart from the coaches who have come and gone in Chloorkop: he could manage all those egos in the camp with his no-nonsense approach, but still with enough sensitivity to handle them on a personal level. Mosimane, like Jose Mourinho who inspires him, is a brilliant “man” manager. The 49-year-old knows how to deflect attention away from his players to himself, which ensures the players enjoy ample freedom on the pitch.

Mosimane not only returned the league to Sundowns, but also the tag “Bafana Bastyle” with a brand of attractive football that not only entertained fans with skills, but goals. That’s all down to the hard work the former Bafana Bafana coach put in. Mosimane does homework on his opponents like no one else. He can break down his opponents’ plan A right up to Z if needs be, leaning on Manqoba Mngqithi who is as diligent as him.

His transformation of Sundowns shouldn’t come as a surprise. With SuperSport United in Tshwane, he did something similar. He transformed Matsatsantsa from a relegation-threatened side to one of the best with the outfit picking up the name of “knockout specialists”.

Mosimane’s favourite frontier, the African safari, awaits him in the Caf Champions League with the league champions. He has taken the Brazilians to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Ghana in his pre-season, training them for the continent.

The Champions League will be the final frontier in getting people to sing Mosimane’s praises in unison.

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