Rulani Mokwena endured a disastrous spell as Orlando Pirates interim coach and has revealed that there are people at the club who didn’t believe in his ability to lead the Soweto giants from the moment he was elevated from the assistant coach position to interim head coach.
Mokwena was handed the reigns at Pirates following the sudden and unexpected departure of Milutin Sredojevic in August 2019.
With the Soweto-born in charge for four months, Pirates had a poor run of form and the young tactician was demoted to the assistant coach role and replaced with Jozef Zinnbauer, who’s had a successful run since taking over as head coach in December.
Mokwena, who is on loan to Chippa United, says the Pirates players were subjected to negative influence by ‘some people at the club’.
“Micho had left on the Friday; we played Highlands Park on the Saturday, less than 24 hours after Micho left. On Sunday we had re-generation and recovery; Monday we had training at Rand Stadium, and a senior player came to me, ” Mokwena told the South African Football Journalists Association (Safja).
“He said someone within the organisation, not senior but someone in the club – phoned him and said to him, ‘Are you happy with the coach?’ Or, ‘Are you happy that the coach has been given the job as head coach?’
“I tell you, I had not even done a training session as a head coach, not even one, and already people were planting doubts into the players about my capacity to lead the team,” revealed Mokwena.
“So, those are the things. I don’t think that would have happened to any other coach. It’s a pity, but it is what it is, and these things make us stronger; you can’t dwell too much on these things.”
“I believe that gone are the days when hopefully, very soon people will look beyond age and skin colour and will focus on competence and the capacity of people.
“Julien Nagelsmann is just a case in point, he didn’t play professional football; he’s 32 years old and he’s German, and he’s been given the responsibility of leading not just Hoffenheim before but now RB Leipzig – one of the biggest teams in the Bundesliga,” he added.
“Now, here in South Africa it’s very, very difficult for young coaches to be able to [enjoy the same opportunities]. In fact, we set them up for failure, and the pity is that black people set black coaches up for failure, concluded Mokwena.
By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi