Masutha prays for better times
The day before his club took on TS Galaxy, coach Joel Masutha attributed his losing streak to “not praying enough”.
His prayers were finally answered after Maccabi FC registered their first win in seven games after a 1-0 victory in their National First Division (NFD) game last week.
The win was Masutha’s first in 2019. He previously endured a seven-match losing streak as coach of Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Chippa United, who fired him at the beginning of January. Chippa had failed to register a win in five games (four losses and a draw).
The Port Elizabeth side had hired Masutha three months after he had been fired by Black Leopards, a club he guided from the second tier NFD back to the PSL at the end of last season. At Leopards, he was released for managing only two wins in 11 games.
Five days after he was sacked by Chippa, Masutha joined Maccabi, but in his first seven games in charge, he managed to record five consecutive losses.
He had found the Johannesburg-based side right in the middle of the table, flirting with a possible fourth position — a spot good enough for the team to qualify for the promotional play-offs at the end of the season.
Before the narrow victory against Galaxy, Maccabi was languishing on the 13th spot of the 16-team NFD, sharing 24 points with Cape Ubuntu FC.
With only six games left before the season ends, the losing streak may already have done enough damage to the team’s confidence heading towards the finish line.
What is it about this man that still gets club bosses queuing for his services, despite his bleak record?
Football officials accustomed to contract negotiations believe that his successful stint with Leopards in the NFD keeps working in his favour.
“Also, having little head-coaching experience makes him financially appealing for club bosses,” says one official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But Maccabi boss Alan Norman says that, regardless of his history, Masutha is their man.
“We were attracted by the fact that he got Leopards from the NFD to the PSL. Remember [before being promoted to NFD] we had no NFD or PSL experience and were playing in the ABC Motsepe League, but we kept the core of our management team. But with Masutha we needed that PSL experience. One more [good] result and we’ll be safe [from relegation]”.
Either way, Masutha has, by current records, been relegated from being the man who plotted Leopards’ return to the PSL to potentially sending Maccabi back to the third tier of the Motsepe League.
In his defence, he says lack of support at previous clubs contributed towards his failure and that things are done differently at Maccabi.
“This club is run very professionally. The win on Saturday was a sign of positive things coming. I’m sure we’ll survive relegation,” he says.
He believes that, if his previous employers had given him proper support, things could have turned out differently.
“When I arrived at Chippa, about 13 players had been released. Others were negotiating new contracts and I couldn’t play them. I only had three defenders.”
Shortly after he was allegedly “forced” into resignation by Leopards, rumours circulated that the club had offered him an opportunity to obtain coaching qualifications in Europe, which he turned down.
This supposedly offended the Leopards hierarchy, who believed that, at this level, Masutha should have grabbed the chance.
Leopard’s general manager Tshifiwa “Chief” Thidiela says: “I can’t talk much about Joel because he’s no longer our coach. He had been with us since we first gained promotion to the PSL [in 2002] and I think he had personal reasons [for turning down the offer].”
But Masutha denies ever being offered the opportunity, claiming that Leopards were attempting to paint him as an unambitious coach.
“That is a lie. They never offered me anything like that. I couldn’t have let such an opportunity slip away,” he says.