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Beware the amiable Swede, he’s steel

Almost everybody who knows Swede Kjell Jonevret, the newly appointed Orlando Pirates coach, waxes lyrical about him. And there are a few themes that come through consistently — his professionalism, his articulacy in English, his friendly demeanour and that he strongly believes in encouraging players to express themselves in an attacking system.

But few are coming out to say that he can be tough when the situation demands it, and that he can provide the necessary coach’s steel to eradicate laziness or ill-discipline in his camp. Former Pirates captain and bad boy of South African football Mbulelo Mabizela, who was recommended to Jonevret during 2005, can attest to a trait surely critical for any new Pirates coach.

Mabizela had just been signed by Tottenham Hotspur but was unable to tie down a starting berth at White Hart Lane. The player’s management team was trying to secure a loan move to Djurgarden, where Jonevret was the gaffer.

There are few people who would doubt Mabizela’s exceptional talents but, for reasons that South Africa were to learn much later, Jonevret refused to sign the former Pirates captain, who was instead loaned to Valerenga in Norway. Much later it became clear enough that Jonevret is not the kind of coach to accommodate a player who does not respect his profession.

Although his CV is no great shakes, there are encouraging signs the Swede could be the right man to kick a few prima donnas in their backsides at the Soweto team, where both outgoing caretaker coach Augusto Palacios and former coach Muhsin Ertugral lost in the dressing room.

Ertugral had actually hinted, soon after Pirates had lost 6-1 to SuperSport United, that some players thought he was dictatorial and conspired to get him fired by failing to follow his instructions. These kinds of antics will not be tolerated by the likes of Jonevret.

Former Bafana Bafana midfielder Lance Davids, who has played under Jonevret, described him as someone whose temperament and preference for attacking football, combined with his winning mentality, would ensure that he succeeds at the Soweto club.

“He is a very easy[-going] guy and a passive coach,” said Davids. “He plays attacking football. When I played for him, he used a 4-3-3 formation, where he played with wingers. This will suit Pirates, that’s their football style, they use wingers in their football patterns,” he said.

“He knows African players and African culture. He coached [Siyabonga] Nomvethe and myself, and during his time with Djurgarden, he spent time in South Africa on pre-season camps.”

Veteran Nomvethe, now leading the line for AmaZulu in the national first division, described Jonevret as a professional who communicates with his players regularly and explains to them what he requires and how he wants them to achieve certain objectives. “He is committed in maintaining a healthy working relationship with his players,” Nomvethe said. “With him in charge, there is not time to slack. He demands even his attacking players to track back and defend.”

It’s probably too soon but the starved Ghost will get up close and personal with their new coach during tomorrow’s Absa Premiership match against Polokwane City at Orlando Stadium.

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