We Don’t Appreciate Our Own!
Sanity prevailed when SuperSport United announced their long-serving loyal servant and legend, Kaitano Tembo, as the club’s new head coach for the next two seasons, taking over from Eric Tinkler who resigned towards the end of last season.
The club had reportedly been on the lookout for Tinkler’s successor with his then assistant holding the fort, on an interim basis, in his absence. The club’s former defender has become part of the furniture at the Tshwane-based club, having joined Matsatsantsa a Pitori almost 20 years ago, in 1999, and continues to prove himself as a mainstay at the club.
He has seen and done it all with the club, having played and retired at the club, coaching in the club’s development structures and worked his way up the ranks. No one can dispute his commitment to the club’s cause and the fact that he has been appointed a caretaker coach on three separate occasions, only to be demoted back to the assistant coaching job until recently, never seemed to bother him at all. In fact, Tembo remained patient, professional, supportive, committed and actively present for those who were appointed ahead of him, learning from them as much as he could.
His permanent employment didn’t just come as a last resort, as his name was always among the top contenders for the hot-seat. Tembo wasn’t given the job on a silver platter, simply because of his legendary status at the club, he earned it! If you check his record this past season, you’d have a very difficult task arguing against his permanent employment as he only lost twice in 11 games that he was in charge of in the second round of last season, arguably the club’s toughest season ever. His ability to steady a ship that looked destined for stormy waters was further proof that he was worth a chance on a permanent basis.
I was one of those who didn’t see the need for SuperSport to look for a head coach when they had a capable and willing candidate right under their nose. That they have offered Tembo a two-year deal is further proof of their trust and belief in one of their own, instead of throwing a ‘pay-as-you-go’ offer to the coach, which usually indicates the lack of trust. The club’s trust and ability to acknowledge their own is nothing new, as they provided the same platform to someone known as “The One” at Mamelodi Sundowns, Pitso Mosimane, who cut his professional coaching teeth at SuperSport United. It was the club’s belief in their own that planted the coaching seed in Mosimane who, just like Tembo, earned this right and went on to do big things at the club and then Bafana Bafana and Sundowns. He reigns supreme today, as the best and most successful coach in the country, thanks to the opportunity that was given to him by Matsatsantsa a Pitori.
This is the same team that has given a chance to a number of its former players and continues to empower their staffers as well. Kwanele Kopo is another prime example as he’s been steadily working his way up the club’s ranks and credited for a number of players who have caught the eye in the senior team. He is but one of many examples of what can be achieved when people are given opportunities, invested in and acknowledged. Ricardo Katza, Thabo September, Jabu Mahlangu and many others add to the long list of people given a chance by the club and, if whispers in my ears are anything to go by, there are plans already in place for some of the current players after they hang up their boots. Now that’s what investing in people is all about.
The way we don’t appreciate our own is disgraceful and it is not just a South African problem but that of the continent as a whole. Remember when Carlos Alberto Parreira recommended a Joel Santana to South African Football Association as the best candidate to take over from him when he left us for the first time? The joke that Santana became was worse than what we had but because he was from Brazil and “comes highly recommended” we didn’t think twice about giving him the highest coaching position in the country. Well, the less said about where that decision took us, the better.
Recently, at the FIFA 2018 World Cup, the five African representatives only had two African coaches in Tunisia’s Nabil Maaloul and Senegal’s Aliou Cisse. Nigeria, in the 2014 edition, were coached by one of their own in the late Stephen Keshi and went on to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament. His contract was not renewed afterwards and there was so much said about his coaching ability after the World Cup. Fast-forward to 2018, Nigeria failed to make it past the group stages with a German coach, Gernot Rohr, and it is business as usual! There are more such examples closer to home and it is this double-standards attitude that contributes immensely to the slow demise of our beautiful game.
Speaking of slow demise, it came as a shock that, once again, a number of Jomo Cosmos players were not paid and this is not the first time that Bra J’s name is dragged through the mud. This doesn’t reflect well on the legendary figure’s reputation and I hope the team sorts out their financial issues with the players sooner than later. You can’t expect players to perform miracles when the club fails to honour their basic requirements – paying the players’ salaries. Jomo Sono has done a lot for South African football but stories like these have a negative effect on the legacy that he has worked so hard to build.