Into the crevices of Pitso Mosimane’s heart

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Pitso Mosimane often comes across as an arrogant, snappy character to those that see him from a distance.

But the man who continues to briskly populate the trophy cabinet at Mamelodi Sundowns is a whole different person to those that work closely with him.

Undoubtedly, Mosimane bestrides the domestic soccer scene like a colossus thanks to his extraordinary achievements both at home and in the continent, as well as his uncanny ability to steal the limelight with his seeming temperamental blowhard tendencies. Cocksure and very sure of what he is on about, that is ‘Jingles’ for you.

Since joining Mamelodi Sundowns in December 2012, Mosimane has overseen an impressive redecoration of the cash flush Tshwane giants’ trophy cabinet. He has led Sundowns to an unassailable 5 Absa Premiership league titles‚ the prestigious Caf Champions League‚ Caf Super Cup‚ the Telkom Knockout and the Nedbank Cup. He could still add another feather on Saturday when his boys take on Bloemfontein Celtic in the Nedbank Cup final.

What better way to enter the crevices of his heart than to be ushered in by a man who has worked as his right-hand man for 6 years?

When he led Golden Arrows to their first ever piece of silverware in 2009, Manqoba Mngqithi was deservedly acknowledged as one of the brightest young minds in South African football. A little over a decade later, he sits next to Mosimane and together they plot the downfall of opponents week after week.

And they have done so in spectacular fashion. Since joining Sundowns, Mngqithi has never known how it feels to finish outside the top 2. All he has experienced is an onslaught for the coveted League title each season.

So, if there is anyone who understands how that dominance that saw the Brazilians retain their third successive title at the expense of an erratic Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday has been plotted, it is Mngqithi.

“I believe Pitso has transformed the club a lot,” Mngqithi tells FARPost in a 30-minute telephonic interview on Thursday afternoon.

“People see him as a very volatile‚ crazy coach who fights with players and everyone. I think that deflects from the person he truly is. Pitso is a truly kind person‚ very generous‚ very friendly‚ with such a sense of humour that many people are not aware of,” he adds.

To him, Mosimane is undoubtedly the hardest working coach he has ever seen. “He is passionate and an expert on analysis and strategy.”

But there is something else that sets South Africa’s most decorated coach apart. He dishes out fatherly love to his players effortlessly. It all comes naturally.

And so, when Mngqithi mentions that soft side of the somewhat bullish coach, the one man who quickly comes to mind is Ricardo Katza. When Katza was on the verge of making a big switch from Hellenic to SuperSport United, coached by Mosimane in 2003, the Kagiso-born coach insisted on meeting.

Understandably, Katza expected the lunch with his new mentor to be dominated by all things football. To his surprise, it was not. While they munched on fine morsels of food at a Centurion restaurant, all talk of football was swept off the table.

“Before I signed for SuperSport he invited me over for lunch and he insisted that I bring my girlfriend. He never even spoke about football, he just wanted to get to know me. He was interested in the person more than the game,” Katza says.

The Pitso Mosimane known to Mngqithi is protective of his players, down-to-earth and concerned.

“He builds good relations with his players and treats them like his sons. That is why they will die for him on the pitch,” says the former Golden Arrows coach.

Katza went on to have a sparking decade-long career at SuperSport, but that meeting with Mosimane gave the now retired footballer a few valuable lessons about man management.

“He taught me you take care of the person first before the tactics and the person will bring the tactics. He wants to know you have a house before you get a car, he wants to know if you’re studying,” he says.

Away from the glare of the cameras and the pressure of the world’s most beautiful game, Mosimane visits players’ families in times of trouble. He stands with them like a true father figure.

In essence, the ‘drama’ Mosimane often causes is apparently aimed at shielding his players. Just a fortnight ago, he stirred up a hornet’s nest when he was caught by SuperSport’s cameras telling Baroka players: ‘We can lose the game, no problem. But don’t disrespect us because you are a relegation team’.

“He takes everything. The blame goes to him. Even the public looks at the coach as this bad guy when things are going wrong. I think that is the biggest secret of his success‚ let alone what is known that Pitso is crazily in love with the game‚ and because of that love and passion he leaves no stone unturned,” Mngqithi explains.

After taking care of the wellbeing and emotive side of his players, he then captivates neutrals with his seething intelligence. The 56-year-old is a master at playing football to win.

“When the going got tough, he reminded us of the challenges we faced in Africa (when we won the Champions League in 2016) and he kept us focused on the next game. We didn’t really care how Kaizer Chiefs were doing. He made sure we were concerned about ourselves only,” says Sundowns skipper, Hlompho Kekana.

Kekana, lovingly referred to as ‘Keke’ by Mosimane, is one man who enjoys an affable father-son relationship with the former SuperSport coach. Like Mngqithi, when Mosimane was handed a new 4-year deal, Keke surprisingly got the same at the age of 35.

“It’s a fantastic way to do it (in my case) because you can’t have me fighting for a contract right in the middle of a Champions League campaign because mine has expired and Coach Pitso’s is still on,” Mngqithi says as he commends the aligned contract length move.

Unitedly, Mosimane drives a vision supposedly cast by Sundowns’ president Patrice Motsepe and bought into by his backroom staff and players all the way down to the Downs faithful.
“We want to conquer Africa and it starts with the PSL,” Mngqithi says convincingly, something Kekana also alludes.

But make no mistake, Mosimane didn’t win 12 major trophies, including 2 at Matsatsantsa, by being a nice dad to his players and convivial with the owners. He is tough and tender.

According to Kekana, he creates a culture of working hard and demands results ruthlessly. That stance has led to the demise of many footballers that have moved to Chloorkop just to enjoy the status that comes with being part of its gigantic vision.

For Mngqithi, who remains the only coach who has won a top-flight trophy for Abafana Bes’thende after he won the MTN8 in 2009, many feel it might be time for ‘TV’ to fly solo.

But he has some unfinished business alongside a man he now calls “a brother” after 6 years as his first assistant.

“We share the same vision; we are doing it for black South African coaches. We have to demonstrate that black coaches are equally capable so that when we bring foreign coaches, we bring people that will add value to the domestic game,” he says.

In any case, the ex-teacher just wants to win trophies for fun.

“I want to be part of the technical team that won everything with Sundowns,” adds the prudent Mngqithi.

Interestingly, Mosimane does not treat his assistants as “ball boys” as they were often referred to in days gone by.

At the start of the season as the Brazilians got their Absa Premiership title defence off to a positive start, Mosimane credited Mngqithi who suggested pushing up Thapelo Morena in their 2-0 win over his former club SuperSport.

“I have to give credit to Manqoba. He said put Thapelo as a striker. I said, ‘no man.’ He said, ‘remember, we put him as a striker against Highlands Park. He scored. So, put him as a striker there’. And we caught them on the break because he is quick, and he set up Themba Zwane. So, I must give credit to Manqoba for that,” Mosimane said as he praised his number 2 after that game.

When asked about his responsibilities as first assistant, Mnqgithi, whose strength is said to be as a training coach, poured his heart out.

“I’d be lying if I say he doesn’t give me the opportunity to express myself. In fact, you never even feel like an assistant under Coach Pitso. He makes you feel like you are a part of it, you are equals. I have grown immensely under him. If he is away he won’t even bother leaving a training programme because he trusts that I or anyone from the technical team is able to run with it,” he says.

And so, it never felt like an insult when Mosimane approached him to join him as an assistant back in 2014.

“I was absolutely honoured when he approached me to assist him because Sundowns is the kind of club I wanted to join where we fight for trophies. Remember when I joined them, they had not started winning titles under Pitso but I could see the direction and vision of the club,” he adds.

As Mosimane continues to stand head and shoulders above every other coach in the land, including highly-rated expatriates, the man looks set to lord it over the domestic game for years.

RELATED STORY: MUST READ: How Pitso Mosimane gets it right

By Mthokozisi Dube

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