Senior Sports Editor
PITSO MOSIMANE believes he is on a crusade to blaze a trail for black African coaches to one day break into the big time of taking charge of some giants of European football.
The 56-year-old coach made history last week when he became the first black coach to be tasked with leading Africa’s biggest, and most successful, football club, Al Ahly.
With 42 Egyptian league championships, 36 Egyptian Cup titles and eight CAF Champions League titles, Al Ahly are the most decorated club on the continent.
Mosimane is the first African coach, who isn’t an Egyptian national, to be handed such a tough responsibility to coach this massive club.
His immediate task is to try and lead the Cairo giants, voted the CAF Club of the Century at the turn of the millennium, to success in the Champions League, for the first time in seven years.
Since beating Orlando Pirates, to win their eighth Champions League crown in 2013, Al Ahly have been struggling to return to the winners podium in a tournament which, every season, tops the list of their priorities.
Interestingly, the Egyptian powerhouse knocked Mosimane’s old club, Mamelodi Sundowns, in the quarter-finals of the current tournament, before the Covid-19 outbreak halted proceedings.
They are due to meet Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in their semi-final showdown while their biggest rivals, Zamalek, will take on Raja Casablanca, in the other semi-final.
Al Ahly’s 3-1 aggregate victory over Sundowns, this year, provided them with some measure of revenge after they crashed to a 0-5 humiliation, in the quarter-finals last year, at the hands of the rampant Brazilians.
It was the Egyptian giants’ biggest loss, in their international football adventure, and the first time they had suffered such an embarrassment since a 0-6 bashing at the hands of their Cairo rivals, Zamalek, in the Egyptian Cup final in 1942.
Mosimane says his decision to plunge into the deep end isn’t about himself alone but a mission which, in the long run, could open the doors for African coaches.
Zimbabwean coach, Kaitano Tembo, who is in charge of SuperSport United, is one of those gaffers who have learnt the ropes while working under the tutelage of Mosimane.
Rhulani Mokwena, who was on Monday named one of the joint coaches to succeed Mosimane at the Brazilians, has also been the trailblazing gaffer’s understudy for a long time now.
Mosimane believes his daring move, to try his luck at Al Ahly, could open the doors, in future, for these emerging coaches to be trusted with coaching some big clubs in Europe.
“I always tell Rhulani that they are the generation of local coaches to go to Europe,’’ Mosimane told New Frame, a South African media publication.
“And. How does Rhulani go to Europe? Pitso must go to Egypt and show that we can take on the big jobs. Of course, it is difficult.
“I was talking to (former Manchester United striker) Dwight Yorke the other time when we were analysts together and he was saying how difficult it is for them (black coaches) to enter that space (the English Premier League).
“But, (white guys who didn’t even play get the chance.
“Look, it has taken over 100 years for Ahly to hire a black coach. But, those of us who get these chances, if you win games, that might help (open the doors for others).”
The coach said coaching Al Ahly was as big, an assignment, as taking charge of Real Madrid or Barcelona.
“This is like coaching (Real) Madrid or Barca in Europe. It’s like coaching Flamengo or Santos, or River Plate or Boca Juniors in South America,’’ he told New Frame.
“It is as huge as that. So you say to yourself, let me go there.
“Of course, you know the risks are big in those big clubs. If you look at the record of the team itself, you won’t be going easily because coaches don’t last in that space.
“But, I could say the same thing about when I came to Mamelodi Sundowns.
“The lifespan of coaches at Sundowns was not even a year, it was about eight to nine months before I came in.
“And I said to myself, do I want to go to that environment? But look what came out — almost eight years came out.
“So, it’s either you go there and believe you can succeed.
“I don’t go to a space where I don’t think it can work out. I believe it will work out because I’ve played against Zamalek, I’ve played against Al Ahly. And not once.
“Those are the dominant teams that win the league in that space. So, what else should I be afraid of in that space? And they are competing against Wydad that I’ve played against, I think, 10 times.”
Mosimane said, during his time in South Africa, he felt some of the some of the expatriate coaches, especially those from Europe, were on holiday.
“These guys are on holiday. They spend time at the malls or in restaurants,’’ he told New Frame. “Some are at golf courses most of the time. That’s the life, hey.
“I wish I had that, but, I cannot, I have got to work.
“Who is going to find out about our next opposition in the preliminary round of the [CAF] Champions League if I don’t do the research myself?”