Give young, black coaches a fair chance

Rapule Tabane is politics editor at City Press.
Rapule Tabane is politics editor at City Press.

The unfortunate aspect of being a die-hard football supporter is that you swear by your team, through the best and worst times.

Unlike my vote, which I have learnt to vary and apply according to the circumstances of the day, my love for my favourite team is constant and unyielding.

This means that even when I am unhappy about decisions the team takes, all I can do by way of protest is to shrug my shoulders in indignation, but thereafter make peace with it.

Young Orlando Pirates’ coach, Rhulani Mokwena, was recently removed as coach after acting in the role for about three months.

He was taken back to the assistant role after the club hired a relatively unknown German coach, Josef Zinnbauer.

The club has employed 11 coaches in the past 10 years and in that time only two were black, Mokwena and the Peruvian Augusto Palacios.

Mokwena was not given enough time to prove his worth and impose his stamp on the team.

But the truth is that most teams, especially the big clubs like Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates, have no confidence in young, black coaches.

Many Pirates fans feel his replacement, Zinnbauer, does not possess any superior skills to Mokwena.

But the truth is that most teams, especially the big clubs like Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates, have no confidence in young, black coaches.

Over the years the modus operandi of Chiefs’ chairperson, Kaizer Motaung, and Pirates’ chairperson, Irvin Khoza, has been to import white coaches from obscure locations in Europe, seemingly believing that, despite their weak credentials in their home countries, they can somehow pull off miracles when they get here.

A few of these coaches have done well here, further entrenching this mind-set among the club owners.

But this phenomenon really got to me in the past few weeks when people I respect said local players don’t respect black coaches and therefore need a white coach to instil discipline.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but it is deeply problematic.

So Mokwena has to go because the players were reckless and ill-disciplined and they did not fear him as he is young and black.

The acceptance of this status quo is worrying because we are effectively saying, let’s allow it to continue because it is what it is.

I cannot agree that we throw our hands in the air and apply the “white man medicine” each time. For how long?

We have to change that mentality among our football players and owners. Otherwise we are making the apartheid architects so proud.

Our football club owners must lead the change by giving coaches such as Mokwena an adequate opportunity and, hopefully, creating great role models, such as Mamelodi Sundowns has done with their coach Pitso Mosimane.

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July 2020

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