Pitso Mosimane’s name is synonymous with success and this has rubbed off on those around him, including players, technical teams and even backroom staff.
Whatever he touches turns to gold.
This year alone, he lifted five trophies: the Absa Premiership and Nedbank Cups in the PSL, and the Egyptian Premier League, the Egyptian Cup and the CAF Champions League.
In fact, he started his triumphs last December with the Telkom Knockout trophy, which makes it a double-treble victory roll.
Mosimane’s name has been trending for all the right reasons over the past few months.
Even before he moved to Egypt, his name was one of the most mentioned on social media, particularly after snatching the Absa Premiership title from Kaizer Chiefs on the last day of the 2019/20 season.
In October, he almost broke the internet when it was announced he had left Mamelodi Sundowns for Al Ahly. He was the talk of the country for breaking boundaries and venturing into unknown territory, leaving the comfort zone of Sundowns, which had been his home for about eight years.
He had just signed a new four-year contract, which would have kept him at Chloorkop until 2024. Instead, he opted to spread his wings and head for the north of the continent.
His followers were not surprised by this move, as he has always been an ambitious coach who thrived on new challenges.
However, not many gave him a chance of survival, let alone success in a foreign country.
Even today, after lifting three trophies with Al Ahly, some sceptics are unsure whether Mosimane is the real deal or that he earned his instant success.
The naysayers argue that he had everything served up to him on a silver platter – or, to use football parlance, that the ball was already on the goal-line and all he had to do was roll it into the net.
His detractors have gone as far as saying that Mosimane has been lucky to inherit a winning team and has not changed much.
They said the same about his days at his previous club, the Brazilians, alleging that he used money to buy success.
Nothing, it seems, will be enough to soften their attitude towards him.
But in football, even if you play for only minute without touching the ball, it is regarded as a cap – a full one, for that matter.
Simply being named on the team sheet means you are deemed to be part of the playing squad that day.
So there is nothing untoward about Mosimane having got to Al Ahly when they had already won the Egyptian league.
He was in charge of their last four league matches and, though these were simply academic, all eyes were on him to see what he was bringing to the table.
True, he joined when the club had already booked their place in the semifinal of the CAF Champions League. But, again, Mosimane’s detractors were waiting to see how he would negotiate his way to the final.
But beating Wydad Casablanca over two legs was no easy feat. He did it with aplomb.
Then came the final. Games against rival Egyptian giant Zamalek are never easy, but Mosimane did it. It might have taken a mere three games to lift the trophy, but they were the three most difficult ones that truly tested his resolve.
And it did not end there, as he went a step further by winning the Egyptian Cup.
PRAISE FOR THE COACH
Former Highlands Park coach Owen Da Gama paid tribute to Mosimane, saying he deserved everything that was coming his way.
Da Gama regards Mosimane as a brilliant, intelligent and astute coach.
“He played at the highest level in Greece and with Bafana, and cut his teeth [as a coach] at SuperSport United before joining Sundowns, where he was able to turn their fortunes around. Some of us aren’t surprised by his success, because he works hard, is meticulous and pays attention to detail. He always surrounds himself with people who add value to his team and complement him. He’s a good reader of the game, very open-minded and never shy to speak his mind,” said Da Gama.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Da Gama has no doubt that if anyone deserves to be African coach of the year, it is Mosimane.
“Never mind what his detractors say – if they have nothing good to say about him, they should just keep quiet. Their remarks are sour grapes, planted by jealousy or personal dislike. Pitso has done exceptionally well.
“It isn’t easy going to a country with a different culture, a different playing philosophy and a different religion, but he’s working wonders there. What distinguishes him is his amazing big-match temperament,” said Da Gama.
Mosimane’s record speaks volumes and statistics cannot be disputed, as they are a true reflection of his achievements.
He has already won the PSL coach of the season award and there is nothing to prevent him from reclaiming the CAF gong he last won in 2016, after guiding Sundowns to Champions League glory.
He won 11 titles during his eight-year tenure at Sundowns, including a record five league crowns.
He instilled a winning mentality in the Sundowns team: even when the odds were stacked against them, they never stopped believing. That was how they won the championship on the last day of the 2019/20 campaign.
He proved to be a master of the mind game, while his rivals often lost the plot when it mattered most.
Mosimane has also made history by becoming the first black coach to lead Al Ahly. Not many would have dared to walk into the lions’ den, especially one notorious for firing coaches, but Mosimane did not hesitate when the opportunity presented itself.
He used to say he wanted the Brazilians to swim with the big fish of the continent. He always wanted to be recognised in Africa and the only way of doing that was through results – which he achieved with Sundowns.
Mosimane became only the third coach after Argentine Oscar Fulloné and Egyptian Mahmoud El-Gohary to win the Champions League title with two clubs.
Mosimane’s good showing in Egypt will definitely open doors for other South African coaches.
He is not the only South African at Al Ahly, as he took with him three other locals to form part of his technical team. Fitness trainer Kabelo “KB” Rangoaga and performance analyst Musi Matlaba have joined the technical team at the Red Devils. So has former AmaZulu and Platinum Stars coach Cavin Johnson.
This augurs well for the country, as it is time we exported our best so they can explore the outside world.
The trio complement Mosimane very well. Their international experience will go a long way towards helping the national team in future. Now that they have shown what South Africans can do, the onus is on other ambitious coaches to follow suit and dip their toes into uncharted waters.
Da Gama, who was in Ghana last week on a scouting mission, agreed that Mosimane’s adventure in Egypt was good for the country. He said he received a warm welcome in Accra and Kumasi, where he went to watch a four-team tournament.
Many have said that Mosimane’s confidence is actually arrogance, but Da Gama disagrees.
He believes there is a fine line between the two and says Mosimane oozes such confidence and determination that it is sometimes misconstrued as being pompous.
In any case, his results and trophies attest to his right to flaunt his achievements.
He has instilled the same confidence in his players, and it has worked for him on the field of play.
Last week, winger Mahmoud Kahraba’s praise of the winning attitude Mosimane has engendered in Al Ahly’s players was quoted in Soccer Laduma.
Kahraba said he had been given a new lease of life under Mosimane and felt that it was much easier for big players to work under a big coach.
“He deals with us very well on the psychological side and that makes us closer to each other, which didn’t happen before,” Kahraba told the Egyptian media after the Egyptian Cup Final.
“All the players like Mosimane, whether they start or not, because of the way he handles us. The best thing at Al Ahly is there’s no one star of the team,” he explained.
Those who know Mosimane well will attest to his candour in voicing his opinions – something that has earned him enemies.
He has made it known that he is an international coach who wants to conquer the world. He always said he wanted to participate in the bigger leagues and make Africa his playing ground.
With the kind of support and success he has enjoyed, he cannot be blamed for believing that he belongs up there with the best.
Next year, he will guide Al Ahly at the Fifa Club World Cup in Qatar, where he will rub shoulders with the likes of Bayern Munich coach Hans-Dieter Flick, who won this year’s Uefa Champions League.