The fact that coach Pitso Mosimane and Egyptian giants, Al Ahly, have parted ways after 20 months of marriage has sent shockwaves throughout the football fraternity. The two parties have decided to “part ways amicably” following a meeting that took place on Monday.
First of all, there’s no amicable parting of ways between these two, let’s get that out of the way! Either the trigger-happy president, Mahmoud El-Khatib, couldn’t accept the 2-0 CAF Champions League final defeat away to Wydad Casablanca and decided to fire Pitso to show his dissatisfaction or they made working conditions impossible for Mosimane to continue with the Team of the Century. One thing we all know, Pitso is not a failure and therefore he would never give up a mission unaccomplished. He’s too brave and ambitious to run away from an incomplete project. The two parties’ lives are predicated on success and high standards, so theirs was a match made in heaven, at least on paper. “Jingles” thrives on pressure, for they say it is the breakfast of champions, and a champion he is. There is no way he would feel overwhelmed by the realistic demands of Ahly, it is only when he’s expected to perform miracles and magics that he would agree with them that it is time to part ways. He wouldn’t even consider going into the president’s office to ask to be released from his contract just because he wasn’t getting the desired results. If there’s one coach who always pushes the envelope and bucks the trend, it is the former Mamelodi Sundowns mentor. So, the amicable parting of ways just doesn’t cut it. If anything, it is just a professional term used to decorate this divorce.
Shocking as it was to see coach Pitso leave Cairo, if we are honest enough with ourselves, we will admit that it was inevitable. There are two things that always threatened Mosimane’s future at Ahly even before he accepted the huge responsibility of coaching the biggest and most successful team in the continent. He always had the odds heavily stacked against him. The fact that Ahly went for his services is proof enough of his quality because not everyone gets a chance to coach Ahly, let alone a phone call from their president out of admiration. Jingles did that and came back with five trophies under his belt in 20 months of his union with Ahly. He’s earned everyone’s respect and the fact that Ahly decided to part ways with (read fire) him doesn’t make him a bad coach. When the club issued a press statement on the upcoming meeting between the coach, the president and the board, red flags started showing and it was inevitable that things would go south from there on. It was only a matter of time, as it happened a few weeks after losing that final in Morocco where they were up against it on all fronts.
Without digressing, first of all, coach Pitso has always been one to speak his mind. His track record backs him up and he’s one of those coaches that not only South Africa but the whole continent is not ready for. Pitso is one of those who will tell you a spade is a spade, not a gardening tool. Not many people, especially with financial muscle, can take that, regardless of your performance. Secondly, Pitso is an African, a Black African at that, and that – for as long as he was at Ahly – has always worked against him. He took the leap of faith by, according to many, rushing in where angels fear to tread. Just check the team’s list of former head coaches since inception in 1926 and you will then realise just how big a step Mosimane took to even take that flight to Cairo. He is the only Sub-Saharan African coach to lead the team to three consecutive CAF Champions League finals. Once again, look at the achievements of the former coaches and see how Mosimane compares to them in his short stint at the club, then you will see why there’s no shame in him leaving the club where he was obviously not appreciated, especially by some of the team’s legends. You also look at his identity in comparison to his predecessors and you get your answer as to why it was so difficult for most of them to accept him as Ahly’s coach, regardless of his performance. Also, look at the number of Egyptian coaches who were given the opportunity to be at the helm of Ahly and see the common denominator in most of them. See how long they stayed on for and what their title reads. You do that and you will know why Pitso was never going to do enough to win over his detractors because they had been mentally conditioned to see the background rather than the human being in front of them. Talk about colonialism!
Ahly has always been a den of European coaches, so for a Black African coach to win five trophies and become a regular feature at the FIFA Club World Cup was always going to take some getting used to. No one can point a finger at Mosimane and call him a failure. Yes, they were always ready to put the final nail on his coffin and the Champions League final loss was just what they’d been waiting for. He frustrated them by prolonging their wait because many, for one reason or another, predicted that he wouldn’t last at his job, but the more he delivered, the less chances of him losing his job. It is one thing to coach a team where pressure is the name of the game, but it is another to coach a team where your next bad result could be your last game. Even when Pitso was doing well, those who were against his appointment disguised their hatred for him with being ambitious and raising the bar by demanding more from the 57-year-old. One draw or loss and they’d question everything he does, but he would shut everyone up, the best way he knows how, by winning and delivering on his mandate.
There is absolutely no shame in Pitso coming back home and cutting his stay short because he didn’t embarrass himself nor his native country, South Africa. If anything, he raised the South African flag and put himself on the map. It is only a matter of time before European opportunities avail themselves because he’s earned every football person’s respect and admiration. It is only those with hidden agendas that will still question him and, for the record, that the club says Mosimane asked to be released from his contract is hogwash! A lot of people thought his appointment was a mistake, but he proved them wrong. He also changed the narrative and stereotypes. People will look at him differently and thanks to him, people will look at African coaches differently. He, in the process, has made his mark and history books will always remember him. Not everyone was against him at Ahly and Egypt, but it is undeniable that a lot of people, key people at that, were against Mosimane and couldn’t wait to see him fail. You’ve run your race and done your best, coach. Welcome back home and all the best for the future.