Let’s Talk About Coaches, Baby
The recent “parting of ways” between clubs and coaches has had me reflecting on the peculiar nature of the thankless job that is coaching.
We love harping on about referees and their inconsistent performances. Equally so, Monday morning chit-chat around the coffee table is never complete without a brutal assessment of various players and the displays they put up over the weekend. But do we ever take time to appreciate the fact that someone has to stand on the touchline and try to spur his charges on to victory? In case you have been living under a rock, Eric Tinkler has left SuperSport United and Tebogo Moloi has vacated the hot seat at Chippa United. To many, these are mere news items. Oh, he’s gone. I wonder who’s next. Get my point? Not many will take the time to come to the realisation that Tinkler won the MTN8 earlier this season, plus took Matsatsantsa a Pitori to the final of the CAF Confederation Cup (with all due respect to Stuart Baxter and Kaitano Tembo, who both had a massive part to play in the latter achievement). The man who was ridiculed and called ‘Eric Toddler’ during his time in charge of Orlando Pirates seemed to buckle under the pressure of negative results in the league, and so his search for a job has begun...
The developments in Port Elizabeth are interesting because, although we are talking about Chippa United (nay, Siviwe ‘Chippa’ Mpengesi) here, no one had expected Tebza to leave the club at this stage. Not the man who has had the Chilli Boys playing some fantastic football and inculcated in them a fighting spirit rarely seen in the team before. Not the man who, after claiming the scalp of Kaizer Chiefs earlier this season, was promised a new, lengthy contract by the chairman on live television. Could the 2-0 loss to Cape Town City, at windy Athlone Stadium, really have been the straw that broke the camel’s back? Or could something have happened behind the scenes? Could the once trigger-happy Mpengesi be back to his old ways? I cringe at the thought!
Even more interesting were the circumstances under which Tebza secured the job. You will remember that the former Bucs midfielder was appointed as assistant coach to Dan Malesela, but no sooner had that happened than the two reportedly had a training pitch bust-up and Tebza took the next available flight out of PE. Malesela was to follow him to the exit door, only that Tebza was to return as head coach. I wish I was making all this up. ‘Dan Dance’, the man credited with the style of football that seems an inherent part of Chippa, is a somewhat forgotten figure nowadays.
Another personality on the coaching front that seems to be out of sight, out of mind is the colourful Kgoloko Thobejane. The Baroka FC head coach is accused of imbibing what, in township parlance, is called “the tears of Sis Victoria” with the players on the team bus after a game against Free State Stars on 3 February. He is set for a disciplinary hearing and it seems he is staring the barrel of a gun if the whispers coming out of Lebowakgomo are anything to go by. Thobejane crept into our hearts with his easygoing style of coaching and quotable quotes. Although some TV analysts in their air-conditioned studios and shiny suits criticise him to the point of belittlement for his broken English. We love him. In him, we see us. Yes, “we is him, and him is us”.
To think that a teacher from a rural area of South Africa can ascend to such heights as to coach a PSL team. To think he achieved this feat without a coaching qualification. One hopes that the experience, sad and disappointing as it is, will not kill him the real death and that, in the words of former president Jacob Zuma, “we will meet somewhere”.
Coaches are often our first target when we look for someone to point a finger at for lack of results, yet they are the most hardworking of the lot. They are the first ones to arrive at training and the last ones to leave. Players miss sitters and thereafter go out on a drinking spree, and in the process create front page newspaper headlines. These are the same players on whose performances coaches’ jobs hinge because when they don’t perform, the coach’s job is at risk.
Some players couldn’t care less that their coach is spending sleepless nights fretting over the club’s dip in form, as long as they get to wear the club’s merchandise while strolling at the mall and draw a salary at month-end. The poor coaches have to stand in front of the camera straight after the game, to explain where they lost it, while it’s not the same for the referees who often get their decisions wrong. Players have the Players Union, but where is the Coaches Union to safeguard the interests of the coaches who are always at the mercy of the sometimes unreasonable club chairmen?
Out there is a bullet with a coach’s name on it.
As I write this, I’m wondering who’s next. With the exception of Roger de Sa, any PSL coach reading this must be singing It’s Probably Me, that beautiful ’90s tune by Gordon Sumner, aka Sting.