Pitso Mosimane sure has several prodigies that have passed through his footballing hands. But, seemingly, never has he poured out his heart – dreams and aspirations – to any of his prodigies in the manner he supposedly did with one man who gave him constant headaches.
As Mosimane’s fortunes unfold, ‘prodigal’ Gerald Modabi watches in astonishment as he recalls that chilly afternoon when a budding coach, Mosimane, accurately predicted how his career would pan out. The two first met in 1998 and it was certainly not love at first sight. Modabi straight away believed the former Jomo Cosmos, Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates striker was big-headed. Perhaps he was. Maybe he still is.
But their second encounter didn’t make matters any better, this time thanks to a misunderstanding by Modabi. Mosimane had invited the late former SuperSport assistant coach Thomas Madigage to come and watch some of the youngsters he was coaching at the Barnes Molokoane Academy in Soweto.
Coincidentally, they happened to be a player short at the start of the game and Modabi, pictured above, was called upon to fill in that slot. “After 10 minutes I was substituted and guess who substitutes me – Pitso. I’m thinking, ‘why does this man hate me so much? Last year, I met him, and he was arrogant towards me and now he takes me out after only 10 minutes’, kanti he had seen enough to convince SuperSport to sign me. It literally took me 10 minutes to join SuperSport,” says Modabi as he narrates how he first realised Mosimane’s eye for talent.
When you then follow Mosimane’s humble beginnings as eloquently narrated by an expressive Modabi, you are tempted to think ‘Jingles’ lives by the words of one late statesman Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, America’s 16th President, once said: “The most reliable way to predict the future is to create it.”
The Kagiso-born mentor has no time to read horoscopes, nor tea leaves, tarot cards or crystal balls. Instead, the man casts a vision and pursues it relentlessly. Sometimes it means sleepless nights for the father of three.
And so, there’s absolutely no way Modabi will forget that ‘far-sighted’ afternoon at the Pretoria Technikon during a SuperSport United pre-season camp. How could he ever forget a prediction told to him by a stark-naked man? No way.
“When he told me about his coaching dreams it was just me and him in the shower at Pretoria Technikon. The man was naked Mthokozisi, the only thing I could look at while he was talking was this guy with a big bum talking rubbish. To me, it was rubbish,” Modabi tells FARPost.
It was the July 2000 pre-season training camp. Mosimane was just 36, and fairly raw in as far as this coaching business was concerned. His only coaching experience at the time was an assistant coach role to the Under 11 players during his tenure with the Belgian club KFC Rita Berlaar, and two brief stints at Sundowns and the Barney Molokoane Academy. In any case, it was barely three years after he returned from Doha, Qatar where he wound up a playing career that had started off at Rockville Hungry Lions.
“He said, ‘Mjomana, look at me, mark this day, I’ll be coaching Bafana in the World Cup. I said to myself ‘uyahlanya lo (he’s mad), he’s the second assistant coach at SuperSport, more or less like a ball boy,” recalls Modabi.
The only real coaching opportunity Mosimane had at the time was mentoring his Barney Molokoane recruits – Modabi and Cavann Sibeko – who were now at SuperSport following his recommendation. And that mentoring sometimes happened behind the goalposts before SuperSport’s fixtures.
“Do you know how embarrassing that was for me and Cavann? Everybody was coming to watch a professional game (pitting SuperSport) against Mamelodi Sundowns at Caledonian Stadium and Pitso was making us train at 1PM at a ridiculously small patched-up pitch outside the main stadium.
“Everyone coming into the stadium was seeing Pitso with these two boys. Man, he was serious. We were angry that he was training the two for us. I didn’t know I’d be doing the same thing as a coach one day,” Modabi explains, adding that their fervent mentor would be carrying all manner of papers that occasionally flew all over the place.
Interestingly, Mosimane was getting increasingly frustrated that Bruce Grobbelaar, pictured above, did not afford him opportunities to share his knowledge in the dressing room. As he watched the Tshwane outfit struggle under the tutelage of Grobbelaar, he felt he had something worthwhile to offer.
“He trained the two of us to demonstrate how players should be trained. He didn’t believe Bruce Grobbelaar was a good coach. He always told Thomas (Madigage) in a local language that ‘this chap is doing nothing’. He was angry he was not being given a chance to show what he was capable of,” explains Modabi.
The former Liverpool showman, nicknamed the ‘Clown Prince’, was then axed at the end of October in 2001 after failing to find a winning formula. Mosimane replaced him as caretaker coach. Of course, Sibeko may not have seen Mosimane stark-naked, prophetically sharing his vision, but he knows just how much the man predicted what would become of his illustrious career.
“I’m not surprised at all when I see what is happening with Coach Pitso,” he says. “He predicted all these things as they are happening. Anyone who played for SuperSport will tell you that he did predict that he would one day coach Bafana Bafana. He did predict that one day he will win the CAF Champions League and that he would dominate Africa.”
For two months, Sibeko, pictured above, was under the tutelage of a young Mosimane at the Barney Molokoane Academy and witnessed him work tirelessly. “We trained behind the FNB Stadium and he would be there every single day,” Sibeko reveals, adding it was the same gusto he later applied at SuperSport.
While he was coaching these youngsters, he made sure they also became fantastic human beings. Justice Lufuno Muvhango will never forget his first encounter with Mosimane. “The first day I saw him, he was driving around Chiawelo looking for Gerald (Modabi),” Muvhango says.
His problematic protégé, Modabi, better explains why he was being sought after. “The man looked for me the whole of Soweto to take a car I had bought back to the dealership. He wanted me to return that car because he felt I was too young to own that kind of car. I kept dodging him all day until he went and parked his car far from my house and walked back to wait for me. When I thought he had gone, I drove home and just as I got out of the car, Pitso showed up. I took the Golf 3 GTI back to the dealership,” explains Modabi, who was 19 at the time.
Thereafter, Mosimane connected a landline telephone at Modabi’s home so he could constantly monitor his movements. “I was learning to drink alcohol at the time. So, he would call at 11PM just to see if I was at home,” Modabi adds.
And so, as he divined, Mosimane eventually became head coach of SuperSport, a job he held till 2007 before serving as caretaker coach of Bafana Bafana for seven games. This was prior to the appointment of Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira as head coach of the national team, whom he served as an assistant coach under during the 2010 FIFA World Cup – a manifestation of one of his dreams.
In 2012, after two years as Bafana head coach, Mosimane returned to club football where more of his prophecies then unfolded. His eight years with Mamelodi Sundowns yielded an unassailable 11 trophies including dominating Africa in 2016 – another of his predictions.
Growing up, the serial winner of South African domestic football had always wanted to coach outside the borders of South Africa. “He always spoke about becoming a national team coach and he spoke about coaching in Europe,” says a childhood friend, Paradise Moeketsi.
“I knew he was going far. It was part of our dreams. We wanted to do a lot for football and so I feel overwhelmed when I see his success because it is the seeds we planted many years ago.” Indeed, that seed has finally sprouted, in Moeketsi’s words, after Mosimane last week accepted the offer to become the new coach of Egypt’s Al Ahly, Africa’s most successful club.
The Red Devils are not European, but they are an aristocratic establishment by African standards. The 56-year-old coach will earn at least $US120 000 (R1.9 million) per month, and expectations are that, if he does well in Cairo, clubs in Europe might want to break away from tradition and engage him.
What probably puts Mosimane in good stead is that he had a playing stint in Greece in his young days, where he probably felt he might one day coach in Europe. Any coach coming from a place like Africa will know that working in the punishing world of Europe football will require an attitude of sorts, and the five-time PSL champion is one man who doesn’t lack that set of personal traits.
Modabi even good-naturedly refers to his former coach as “arrogant.” He goes on to make his own prediction. “In two months’ time, Pitso will be speaking Arabic – he is crazy like that.” As much as Modabi is forthright about Mosimane’s personality, there are other areas of the former Downs gaffer that he greatly admires.
“Pitso is Pitso,” adds Modabi, who also had stints with Silver Stars and Orlando Pirates. “He has a very consistent personality. He wants things done on time. He wants professionalism, he wants football to be played every second of the day.”
After all the razzmatazz surrounding the ground-breaking deal, can Mosimane make it Egypt, Africa’s greatest footballing nation? “Yes,’” believes Sibeko. “I don’t doubt Pitso. Yes, Al Ahly is a big challenge, but he saw a massive career move. He is not afraid of challenges. He will work so hard and he will make it.”
And as he predicted, Mosimane is just about to conquer Africa!
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By Mthokozisi Dube