Pitso, pride and the world

This week, not for the first time, Pitso Mosimane compared the Sundowns experience to the Comrades Marathon. His challenge was different to rivals such as Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs he said — whose races were more of a half-marathon. With a long road ahead and big picture in mind, how he paced his team was a far greater consideration for him.

Yet, looking beyond the back-handed metaphors, the idea of the Amakhosi lifting the PSL trophy —an idea that is crystallising — looks to increasingly irk him. Despite qualifying for the next round of the CAF Champions League last weekend with a convenient two games to spare, a set-back against SuperSport United on Sunday will serve a deep cut to his aspirations.

On face value that’s an idea he would reject. Not only because the season is yet to mature but because the broader mission is always in sight.

“We also have to understand that the CAF game was the biggest,” he said from Chloorkop this week. “Bigger than Pirates and the Nedbank Cup, let’s be honest. You know where it puts you … We have said that we want to be a team that’s ranked on the world club rankings. So you can’t get those points if you’re going to complain.”

Here’s the thing about Mosimane: he is obsessed with making a global impact. He cherishes the recognition the club receives from independent sites such as Football World Rankings — where the Brazillians have now breached the global top 50.

Even his language is couched in an international framework. Anyone who’s attended a Sundowns presser will know that “Jingles” often uses European examples to make his point. Usually the English Premier League, but often Barcelona too — a side he has maintained a clear admiration for. In this conversation alone he has compared Pirates’ recent goalscoring form to Manchester City; Chief’s league success to Leicester City’s non-European commitments; and Rhulani Mokwena’s supposed borrowing of his tactics to Mikel Arteta using Pep Guardiola strategies at Arsenal.

It would be easy for an amateur psychologist — and among football writers it is a pseudo-profession not in short supply — to deduce that Mosimane craves to be in that company. He wants Sundowns to make the biggest teams turn their heads in recognition.

But perhaps it goes a little bit deeper than that. There’s a reason the continentally successful coach could never let go of local football.

“I have my legacy that I have to fight for,” he says. “People take it personally but I’m not like that … I’m highly, highly competitive when it comes to winning a match … I must write my own history and fight with the two Germans.”

The Germans he’s referring to are Chief’s Ernst Middendorp and new Buccaneer boss Josef Zinnbauer.

“It’s not easy, it’s tough for me,” Mosimane continues.

“They come from privileged situations of coaching the biggest teams — Middendorp coached a team in the Bundesliga. This guy [Zinnbauer] also coached in the Bundesliga. Who have I coached? SuperSport United! I haven’t coached anybody else. My pride is also there for my local coaches to say we can do something with our Safa level 1s and 2s. They have Uefa A, B licences. Ten years ago they were studying in the same classes as Jürgen Klopp. Where was I? I was coaching in Soweto.”

Mosimane has long been considered a bastion of South African coaching excellence so it comes as little surprise that the man, known for speaking his mind, should view his work as essential in the battle to restore pride in our own tacticians.

That’s the interesting dichotomy of his appetite. He might view his mission for global recognition as righteous; he would even use it to deride the efforts of his league rivals. But when it comes down to it there’s unfinished work to be done on our own shores.

That begins with a crucial Tshwane Derby on Sunday, which is about as local as it gets. The war remains on the home front.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

Related stories

Corporate and broadcast deals push PSL to restart

Football will return, but the players are likely to have very little time to acquaint themselves with the "new normal"

10 years on: The legacy of the 2010 World Cup

In the first part of our new series, we take a look at the goal that has played on loop in our heads and on TV channels for the last decade

The secret behind the Josef Zinnbauer magic

The Orlando Pirates coach has masterminded a dramatic turnaround at the struggling club he joined just over four months ago. Now, they are league contenders

PSL falls in line and suspends football

It’s officially official, we will have no football in the country until further notice

Safa: There will be no football, our decision is final

Danny Jordaan has laid down the law and forbid behind-closed doors matches from going ahead.

Minister greenlights sports to continue behind closed doors

Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has made clear that the government is not opposed to games going ahead without spectators provided they adhere to strict safety protocols

New education policy on gender violence released

Universities and other higher education institutions have to develop ways of preventing or dealing with rape and other damaging behaviour

Cambridge Food Jozini: Pandemic or not, the price-gouging continues

The Competition Commission has fined Cambridge Food Jozini for hiking the price of its maize meal during April

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday