The fancy of the fans

Orlando Pirates coach Bibey Mutombo says he is not the first Pirates coach to be put under pressure from the fans. Duh!

Given that this is the club’s 70th anniversary and that it boasts millions of passionate and opinionated supporters, it stands to reason there must have been one or two other coaches before Mutombo, whose governance of the team did not meet the supporters’ expectations.

He should know at least one of them, Milutin Sredekovic, the man whose job he stole under the pretext of coming in as a technical adviser.

If he checked the records he would find the name of Gordon Igesund, the last man to lead Pirates to a cup final victory (Kosta Papic’s Vodacom Cup triumph over Chiefs does not count because it was a pre-season tournament in 2004).

And, as fate would have it, Igesund and his Mamelodi Sundowns team will be Mutombo’s rivals for the SAA Supa8 finals at Durban’s Absa Stadium on Saturday.

Igesund has also not won a cup final since that day in 2000. Memorably, Igesund had to be whisked away to the then Johannesburg International Airport by helicopter because he had to hand over his daughter in marriage in Durban later that evening.

Those happy memories were flushed down the toilet a few months later when a minibus full of Pirates supporters invaded the training ground to register their displeasure with his tactics and approach to the game.

Mutombo will do well to heed the lessons of Igesund’s tenure as he prepares his team for Saturday.

Success on the day will buy him time only to implement the type of style the fans associate with their beloved 70-year-old institution.

Igesund has not had much luck in recent weeks and, though prospects of a minibus arriving at the club’s Chloorkop training ground are a bit remote, he will be feeling the pressure of recent failures.

Sundowns have played two league matches and registered a home loss and an away draw.

The travels in the continent for the Confederations Cup have brought no joy either. They won at home but lost both of their away matches and their fate lies in the hands of their rivals.

One can imagine how billionaire owner Patrice Motsepe will feel should this weekend not bring success, especially since his other investment, mining company Harmony, is hogging the headlines for unflattering reasons.

As for the match itself, it should be a classic final with little to choose between the sides.

Pirates go into the match riding their luck. They scored four goals in their previous two matches, even though none of the shots that led to the goals was intended.

Three were cruel deflections and another collided with their striker, Rudzani Ramudzuli, who was minding his own business inside Ajax Cape Town’s penalty box, and it trickled into the net.

The young Cape side had run rings around their overrated opponents, but were either too inept or unlucky not to finish the chances they had created.

Sundowns have been going through an identity crisis of sorts.

They were emphatic in their round tie against Bloemfontein Celtic, winning 4-1, and laborious in the following round against Jomo Cosmos, going through after a penalties showdown.

But one thing in common for both teams is that they both want to win this, the last SAA Supa8 tournament, for Gift Leremi, who died in a car crash last week.

His ghost will loom large. It was going to be his first match since he crossed the floor from the Buccaneers to the Brazilians in the off-season.

Though he was at the time of his death a Sundowns man, Pirates fans and officials regard Leremi as their ”son”. They point to the fact that he spent seven years at their club, rising through the development ranks, as opposed to seven weeks at Sundowns, as proof that the black-and-white blood still ran through his veins.

But if the coaches’ fortunes are to be determined by this match — and not by the prevailing state of mourning at the two clubs — Mutombo should look up Brian Goldrick’s name in the club’s records.

Goldrick, a Pirates coach in the mid-Eighties, had finished one season — much as Mutombo finished his last — a hated man.

The fans bayed for his blood. The club bought him some time. At the beginning of the new season, he won the top eight final, beating Kaizer Chiefs in the semifinal and Highlands Park in their last match before they sold the franchise to Jomo Sono.

Pirates fans, displaying their characteristic fickleness, carried Goldrick out of Orlando Stadium a hero. Then again, they chased Igesund away later in the same season he had won them a top eight cup.

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