“Sundowns is too big for Pitso”. “Pitso must go, I want Mangqoba”. “Pitso wa re jesa (makes us lose)”. “He must stop buying players and coach players”. Those are some of the words that were used by the ‘Ka bo yellow’ faithful after their side failed to win their first game of the league season, having been held to a 1-1 draw by Maritzburg United at home on Friday. They were calling for Pitso Mosimane’s head after also being dumped out of the MTN 8 last week, meaning they are winless so far this season.
But is it really fair on a coach that brought the league title to Chloorkop for the first time in seven years? I don’t know. The Sundowns fans have become notorious for their attacks on coaches over the years and men like Hristo Stoichkov, Henri Michel and Johan Neeskens can attest to this, having at some point left the stadium under heavy police presence.
They are not the only ones who’ve had the misfortune of coaching at a big club with pressure from the stands. Roger De Sa is one other coach who knows how it is to have bottles and vuvuzelas thrown at him after a game and it’s also safe to say that before winning the treble, Ruud Krol was also not in the best books of Pirates supporters.
Those are just some of the coaches who have suffered that fate. As a football fan myself, I do understand and feel the pain of the guy that takes his hard earned money to go support their favorite team at the stadium, and make no mistake, they might not be doing it for a living, but they know the game and know how it should be played. But sometimes you wonder if our football lovers have the proper understanding of the dynamics involved in the game. And even if they don’t, there’s just no excuse for being a hooligan.
It is totally against the spirit of the game. We call it the beautiful game for a reason. We often wonder why coaches don’t stay long in this league, but the truth is, they just aren’t afforded the time.
Very rarely does a coach see his contract out in the Absa Premiership, and even if it’s not the fans vying for his blood, it’s management turning up the heat, sometimes justifiably so, but no one enjoys losing so I’m pretty sure neither does any coach. To say a coach has to resign after a draw in the first game of the league is unheard of. Another perfect example of how fickle football fans are is when Kaizer Chiefs’ title defence was derailed last season, and Amakhosi fans started breathing heavily down Stuart Baxter’s neck, the man whose praises they were singing after he won the league in his first season.
I don’t think Baxter will still be the coach at Chiefs next season should he fail to win the league this campaign, and this is from past experiences. Fans should also look at the performances of the players themselves at times. I mean I understand the frustration if the coach just gets it tactically wrong on the day, or even for a specific run of matches, but if a player makes the wrong decisions on the pitch, or misses a sitter, how is that the coach’s fault?
As much as the coach runs the show, some things just require common sense, and you can’t expect a player in professional football to be coached on the basics and technique. The great Doctor Khumalo once shared a story about how he did a shibobo against the coach’s instructions early in a big game. He said it had to be done in order to ease the tension from the stands and get the fans behind them.
That’s a perfect example that players can think for themselves. Not everything that goes wrong is the coach’s fault. It is important to have realistic goals as a club and let it spill over into the fans’ expectations. In my very first piece here I spoke about the new Bafana Bafana coach and how we all need to be realistic with our expectations about the national team.
That starts at the very top, meaning SAFA president Dr Danny Jordaan has a role to play here. Credit to Dr Jordaan, he has downplayed any talk of an AFCON 2015 mandate for Bra Shakes, which will go a long way in setting the supporters at ease should we not qualify for the tournament. Management at all these big clubs should follow that blue print and set their coaches reachable targets, and naturally their supporters will follow suit.