Absa Premiership

How Pitso Mosimane built Sundowns dynasty

Pitso Mosimane (Gallo Images)
Pitso Mosimane (Gallo Images)

Mamelodi Sundowns have enjoyed an unprecedented period of success in winning four Absa Premiership titles in the previous six seasons.

To go alongside being crowned champions of Africa in 2016.

Players, club legends and coaches have all come and gone, with the one constant during this period being head coach Pitso Mosimane.

Sport24's Baden Gillion delves into how Mosimane masterminded Masandawana into a dynasty.

Playing career

Mosimane started his career as an 18-year-old at Jomo Cosmos in 1982. The talented midfielder's career took him to the very top of South African football and later to Greece, Belgium and Qatar in a highly successful playing career spanning 14 years.

The 'success' didn't come in the form of countless personal accolades or a glittering trophy-laden career, but rather in the invaluable football knowledge he gained along the way.

When profiling the Soweto-raised Mosimane's career, it becomes apparent just how influential experiences during his playing days were in shaping his philosophies as a coach.

Start in coaching

Mosimane first pursued an interest in coaching as a 31-year-old while playing at Rita Berlaar in Belgium, by assisting one of the club's youth teams in 1995.

On his return to South Africa in 1996 he held a role as a coach at Sundowns and was recruited to set up the SuperSport United youth academy.

This led to Mosimane - who had been promoted to an assistant coach role - eventually replacing then-head coach Bruce Grobbelaar in 2001.

SuperSport United

Mosimane spent six years as head coach at Matsatsantsa until 2007, lifting the SAA Super 8 trophy (2004) and the Nedbank Cup (2005).

This enhanced his reputation as one of the brightest young coaches in South Africa.

Bafana Bafana

The in-demand Mosimane served as an assistant coach on the international stage with Bafana Bafana and later took over as head coach after the 2010 World Cup.

His time at Bafana came to a rather embarrassing end after failing to qualify for the 2012 AFCON event.

He mistakenly played for a draw in the final qualifier against Sierra Leone, when in fact a victory was required.

Scottish author Samuel Smiles said: "We learn more from failure than success" and this could be true when analysing Mosimane's time at Bafana.

The young coach - with a point to prove - would then go on to oversee the most unprecedented period of success in South African football history.

Sundowns

After finishing in 9th position in Mosimane's first season, Sundowns then went on an astonishing run by finishing within the top two positions in the league for six consecutive seasons.

Education

Another popular phrase by American writer, Mark Twain says: "Don't let school get in the way of your education".

Even though Mosimane doesn't yet possess a UEFA PRO License as many other coaches in South Africa do, what he does have is life experience and a burning desire to learn.

When setting up the SuperSport United academy as head of youth, Dutch giants Feyenoord entered into a partnership with the Tshwane club to develop young South African talent.

Mosimane was invited to Holland to study the youth structures at Feyenoord.

A street-smart Mosimane, however, used the trip as an opportunity to educate himself and left for Holland a month in advance to spend time studying the highly-regarded Heerenveen head coach, Foppe de Haan.

Later during his three-week stay at Feyenoord, Mosimane used his time to build close relationships within the club.

This period in Holland proved an invaluable education towards developing his training methodology as he looked to become a head coach at SuperSport.

Competitiveness

Another experience that may have shaped his well-known competitive streak was an encounter with Santos head coach Gordon Igesund.

On the eve of his very first game in charge at SuperSport, Mosimane had a chance run-in with Igesund in the hotel that both sides were staying at.

He recounted that he sheepishly approached Igesund for some advice ahead of his first game in charge but was ruthlessly laughed out the room without so much as a word of advice.

Mosimane vowed that he would know just as much as Igesund, and then even more.

Could this moment be used to understand Mosimane’s ruthless competitiveness towards his contemporaries?

We have clearly seen flashes of this in his fierce recent battles with Kaizer Chiefs head coach Ernst Middendorp.

Coaching principles

Mosimane has admitted his coaching principles were heavily influenced by his time spent playing under foreign coaches in Greece and Belgium.

His coach in Greece, Nikos Alefantos, was a known admirer of the Dutch “total football” and this is where he was exposed to their methods and based his playing style on Louis Van Gaal’s Ajax Amsterdam of the 90s.

He was later exposed to various ideologies in how to play the game through the various coaches he played under.

After being impressed by Jose Mourinho’s dominant Chelsea side he decided to forge his own unique identity as a coach.

Sundowns today are known as a team who generally play an entertaining brand of football, like the Dutch, but can also grind out results and put teams under pressure with intense pressing.

To be able to do this, however, his teams would need to be in peak physical condition.

Conditioning

Later in his playing career in Greece, Mosimane befriended the team’s physical trainer who made him realise that he had never been truly fit before until then.

This moment of regret could be what inspired Mosimane to value physical conditioning so highly.

Today, if you tune into SundownsTV on SuperSport, you’d see players constantly being put through fitness checks. There are also breathalyser tests daily to ensure that players are not leading the wrong lifestyle.

So, if you’ve been wondering why certain players find it hard to get game-time and are always stuck up in the stands, this could be one of the reasons.

Andile Jali is a prime example. When overweight early in his Sundowns career, Jali failed to get much game time. Off-field issues also didn’t help the midfielder in forcing his way into the starting lineup.

Since then, Jali has shed the extra kilos and seems to have sorted any personal problems and now finds himself as a regular starter. He has since gone on to find his best form in a Sundowns shirt.

Technical team

Mosimane has always looked to surround himself with a talented coaching staff. With a bevvy of huge egos in soccer this is not always the case. Coaches often employ trustworthy assistants who, at the same time, don’t pose a threat.

Mosimane, though, has always been very hands-on during sessions and is confident enough in his own ability to hire the best young coaches.

He has played a pivotal role in developing young coaches with Chippa United head coach Rulani Mokwena and current assistant Manqoba Mngqithi both coming highly-rated.

Recruitment strategy

It is well-known that Sundowns always seek to sign the best talent in SA. With owner Patrice Motsepe's backing, they enjoy a monopoly in the player market over other teams.

This isn’t a guarantee for success, though, and the need to recruit the right profile of player is vital.

Maintaining standards

Mosimane is a workaholic who never switches off with football constantly on his mind.

He demands high standards of everyone involved at the club and will go to extreme measures to ensure that they are maintained.

Mosimane has a fascinating habit of making personal house calls to players to make sure that they are not out partying.

How does he make sure that they are home?

By instructing them to switch their TV to a specific channel and for them to tell him what’s currently playing.

It would be funny to imagine different Sundowns players with a TV guide in hand when out, to bypass their coach’s spot checks.

The highly-respected coach is showing no signs of slowing down and could very well go on to again begin the next legacy of success. With dominance in Africa a definite objective.

MOSIMANE COACHING HONOURS: 

Domestic Titles

Supersport United: SAA Supa 8 (2004); Nedbank Cup (2005)

Mamelodi Sundowns: Absa Prem (2013-14, 2015-16, 2017-18, 2018-19)

Runners-up: 2014-15 Runners-up: 2016-17

Nedbank Cup (2014/15)

Telkom Cup: (2015, 2019)

African Titles

CAF Champions League: (2016)

CAF Super Cup: (2017)

Individual Awards

PSL Coach of the Season: (2013-14, 2015-16, 2017-18, 2018-19)

African Coach of the Year Winner: 2016