Imagine the calm that hovers in the half-light before Muhsin Ertugral's alarm clock heralds the start of another day of madness.
Imagine the calm that hovers in the half-light before Muhsin Ertugral’s alarm clock heralds the start of another day of madness. The flaming eyes are doused wide shut. That profane gash of a mouth is a gentle wobble anointed with drool. His hair has surrendered its boyish neatness to the uncertain persuasion of the bed clothes. The room rocks gently to the rhythm of silence and snoring.
Then the air is rent, those eyes snap open like a pair of switch-blades, one of them a touch squiff, and Ertugral finds a reason to swear at his toothbrush. At least, that’s the impression Ertugral, who is in his second incarnation as Kaizer Chiefs’ coach, gives from the touchline.
During his first stint, in 2001, Chiefs became the only South African club to win the African Cup Winners’ Cup—the forerunner of the Confederations Cup.
Last year Ertugral won the Absa Cup with Ajax Cape Town, who beat eventual league champions Mamelodi Sundowns 2-0 in the final. In fact, Ajax were the only side that the Brazilians did not defeat in 2007.
Way back when Thabo Mbeki had yet to be called, never mind recalled, Ertugral took Zaire to the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations.
His team performed despite the rumblings from home, where Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent Kabila were locking eyes and gunsights across a crippled country that would, more than 200 000 violent civilian deaths later, become the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
That 1996 tournament was played in South Africa and many South Africans’ abiding memory of it is of Mark Williams transforming himself into an icon in the space of two magical minutes by scoring twice in the final against Tunisia.
But Kaizer Motaung was taken with the mad Turk who prowled the Zaire touchline as if his mortal enemy was pulling tongues at him from across a roaring rush-hour freeway.
Still, it was another three years before Ertugral was installed as Chiefs’ coach. Over the course of the four years after that, Amakhosi won the Bob Save Super Bowl, the Vodacom Challenge, twice, the BP Top Eight, the Coca-Cola Cup, the Telkom Charity Cup, and were named African Club of the Year. And let’s not forget that singular African Cup Winners’ Cup triumph.
Even by Chiefs’ demanding standards that’s an impressive litany of success. But they never won the league under Ertugral, who left the club in 2003, having come closest to a PSL title in 2000-2001 when Chiefs were runners-up.
Therein is buried the root of much of the unease that has accompanied his second tenure at the helm of the club. So far in their PSL campaign Chiefs have delivered a believable impression of a drowning cat, earning just three points from four matches and sinking to third from bottom on the log.
Here are some of the more measured criticisms he has taken as posted by ‘Themba” on Laduma.net: “For a while now, an unpleasant sideshow to Kaizer Chiefs’ matches has been Muhsin yelling all sorts of foul phrases. His antics have become notorious, as Muhsin is seen throughout the match grimacing at every little fault his players make on the field, shouting at referees for every decision that goes against Amakhosi and generally putting on a performance every time the camera is focused on him. Let this be a lesson to Muhsin: focus on the game; maybe Chiefs will start winning some matches.”
From the lunatic fringe, courtesy of ‘Sizwe” on DISKIOFF: ‘Mr Kaizer Motaung pleazzzzzzzze! Please, please sack Muhsin Ertugral as what I saw on Tuesday night was really a disgrace. I’m really sick and tired of watching bad football from Chiefs. Then later Muhsin will point fingers at people.”
This in the afterglow of Chiefs winning the MTN8, albeit that they had to wait for a penalty shoot-out to beat Moroka Swallows after the most flaccid of finals. That wasn’t enough to satisfy ‘Sizwe”: ‘Thanks for the Cup but Muhsin must pack his bags and go.”
Football fans can stand anything when their team is winning, but when they’re losing the coach is invariably the first target. That’s because players win games and coaches lose them. Always has been,
always will be.
When the coach of a losing team behaves like a circus clown on his day off, public wrath will surely follow. Fans will put up with a certain amount of character in a coach—Gordon Igesund’s dapper dressing is tolerated, although he does have to put up with nicknames such as ‘Sir Gordon” and ‘Sunflower”.
Igesund also has a habit of packing PSL titles with his flashy wardrobe, and that can’t hurt.
Ertugral can probably sleep easy for now, but one of these days he could find himself without a reason to get out of bed.