Soweto Derby coaches walk tightrope

Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)

One of the most daring and brave decisions that Orlando Pirates boss, The Iron Duke of South African Football, Irvin Khoza ever took, was firing coach Joe Frickleton ahead of the Africa Club Championships final in 1995.

After the clubs were locked at 2-all after the first leg at FNB Stadium, Khoza sacked the mentor, replacing him with assistant, the late Ronald Mkhandawire - may his soul rest in peace - to lead the troops in the second leg in Abidjan.

It is now history that the Buccaneers emerged victorious thanks to that strike by Jerry Skhosana that has become stuff of legend.

Going into Saturday's Soweto Derby, neither of Khoza or his Kaizer Chiefs counterpart, Kaizer Motaung, could be blamed if they pulled the trigger on either of their beleaguered coaches, Eric Tinkler and Steve Komphela, respectively.

The pair have been walking the plank while skating on thin ice for quite some time. Tinkler did well in the CAF Confederation Cup, but the results have not been forthcoming on the domestic front.

The club is still languishing in the bottom half of the log and has failed to make any impressive progress in two domestic cups - the MTN8 Cup and the Telkom Knockout Cup - that have already been won by Ajax Cape Town and Mamelodi Sundowns, respectively.

Komphela has not covered himself in glory either despite the club in fourth on the log. Chiefs have failed to get the 30 points targeted by Komphela at the halfway mark. They also lost in both the MTN8 and Telkom Cup finals.

This means Komphela has failed to defend one of the cups won by his predecessor Stuart Baxter last season (MTN8) while chances of defending the league title are also fast diminishing.

And then this past weekend, Pirates suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of lowly Jomo Cosmos.

Then the following day, Amakhosi forfeited a 1-0 first half lead to go down 2-1 to Platinum Stars in their home game played at the Cape Town Stadium.

Sometimes in football, they say, it is not about losing, but how you lose.

Kaizer Chiefs fans will find it a bitter pill to swallow that after taking the lead, Amakhosi capitulated to two late strikes to drop all three points on offer on the day.

So, it's against the backdrop of these bad results that Tinkler and Komphela head into the biggest fixture in the country on Saturday (15:30 at FNB Stadium).

Many wouldn't disagree with Khoza or Motaung if they were to relieve their coaches of their duties - even if it happened before the Derby.

However, should the two coaches go into Saturday still in the hot seat - although with one leg in and one out - Saturday's result becomes even more important.

Anyone who has followed South African soccer for some time will know how much bearing the result of a Soweto Derby has had on a coach's future.

It is a typical "make or break" scenario or to paraphrase the great, legendary Liverpool mentor Bill Shankly, it is more than being a matter of life and death.

We will see who will come out unscathed.

May the best man (or team) win!

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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