It is all well and good for Mamelodi Sundowns Coach, Pitso Mosimane to set himself as the master of mind games. It adds excitement to the mostly scrappy, identity-less football that has become a common sight to South Africans. But when the cannon becomes a little too loose, it could prove quite detrimental, with unintended consequences. And Mosimane may need to know when to keep quiet rather to accidentally add more confusion to the lack of style of play that the local football has had to endure for so many years with no light at the end of the tunnel.
Off the field, Mosimane has set himself head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to playing mind games, tactfully aimed to destabilise his oppositions, most of which have been directed at their fierce rivals, runaway log leaders, Kaizer Chiefs.
This week was no different for Mosimane who’s become a regular on the trend-lists. This, following his controversial rebuking of Orlando Pirates midfielder, Fortune Makaringe’s antics on the ball, during their midweek loss to the Sea Robbers.
In his post-match interview, Mosimane was quoted as saying, “A good game … just upset with one thing that happened on the pitch; not good for football. It’s my opinion, okay? … You know, it’s good for Maimane Phiri’s Games and Baba Mthethwa’s Games. We love it. Probably, it’s going to be the flavour of the moment, kasi flavour, but it’s the way it is. I don’t want to criticise or kill the youngster because he had a good game, but it’s okay.”
Now, that is quite problematic and quite frankly, regrettable, especially coming from someone of Mosimane’s stature in local football. Looking at his history as a player and a coach, achievements it would perhaps be very reckless and maybe even disrespectful to conclude that his utterances expose his lack of understanding of what South African football is all about. But out of respect, it could be said that he failed to consider the impact of such an utterly clumsy comment.
He may argue, typically, that “It’s my opinion.” But this is Pitso Mosimane. The former Bafana Bafana coach; the current Mamelodi Sundowns coach, with an array of championship titles to his name, including PSL, and CAF Champions League title and being the only local coach to have taken part in the FIFA Club World Cup. His opinion is not his opinion. It carries too much weight hence the need to self-restraint.
You see, for many years, local football has endured lack of identity. The situation is currently so dire that we are not just a footballing nation without a playing philosophy, but we have begun showing tendencies of hating anything that once was the little that offered that little bit of identity. That is dangerous as that could sink our football further down the pit of hopelessness. At one stage it was just Glen Hoodle who could come here and rebuke Sailor Tshabalala for expressing himself on the field of play while we all sat back and watched. The fact that Glen Hoodle left behind poor hybrids of himself who will, on his behalf, rebuke their own for being themselves is excruciatingly painful. But Mosimane obviously never thought that far before he made that comment hence the need to remind him.
Sophisticated ball skills and intricate movement, tactical mobility and disguise, optimal application of combined speed with improvisation, etc., are not provided for in the menu of European coaching simply because such special qualities are not prominently inherited in the football traits of European players. How fortunate that during the upbringing of Teenage Dladla, Ace Mnini, Jomo Sono, the late Ace Ntsoelengoe, Zachariah ‘Computer’ Lamula, Cedric Xulu, Mlungisi ‘Professor’ Ngubane, Goodenough ‘Happy Cow’ Nkomo and many, many other legends their nature was not mutilated by foreign football ideologies. They made their fame because they remained pure African footballers. That’s an informal application of sport science.
The paradox here is that the very few progressive coaches, who are aware of South African player’s specificity and have the knowledge to apply it, are stigmatized. They are seen as the enemies of the so-called South African coaching ideology, which far from South African, let alone Africa. What we are witnessing in the PSL is desperate, poor hybrids of German, English, Dutch, ideologies.
The tournaments that Mosimane is talking down on, the Maimane Phiri and Baba Mthethwa games, have more spectators than some of the PSL matches. Ask yourself why? You want to argue football has changed and that it’s business? Yes, you are right, and the fans are business and if you can understand why those off-season games have more fans than some PSL and Bafana Bafana matches, then you are on track to luring fans back to the stadiums and offering an apology to Makaringe. But no, you are not about that! You are about becoming a little European!
The dominant fact that players in South Africa and in the region are of the medium-small frame, and do not possess considerable physical strength, is not a disadvantage. Nature has compensated for that and rewarded these players with exquisite agility, quickness, balance, coordination, creativity, anticipation, natural endurance and other qualities which are there and still to be explored and developed. The genuine football scientists of this world would confirm that the South African “type” of player can be extremely effective, but not in a game concept based on physical dominance, predictability and restricted or self-limited skill, as Mosimane’s “opinion” seeks to limit Makaringe, Bradley Ralani, Luvuyo Memela, Thembinkosi Lorch, Themba Zwane, Oupa Manyisa, Siphelele Ntshangase, Joseph Molangoane, and many others already in the PSL and those who are yet to arrive on the scene.
These players will be prisoned by Mosimane’s “opinion.” If you don’t believe, check the number of debates that continue on social media about the term foreigners imposed on us “Showboating” in order to limit and channel an African’s creativity, and “level the playing field” just like what they wanted to do with Caster Semenya when they couldn’t understand any sort of superiority from an African. Throngs of people are falling for the “showboating is useless” trap. The master has won and football around the world is Europeanised and you won’t beat them at their game. If you don’t believe this check how the FIFA World Cup quickly turns out to be a European affair, a Euro, because why? Everyone is following Europe, because Europe told them, “do not showboat. It is not allowed. Play direct!”
You see, this more than just football. It is the new world order. “Free them from their chains, but keep their minds.” Those are signs Mosimane is depicting with his “opinion.”
So, stop lashing out and at Makaringe and company. Sadly, some of those who lash out at these players for what the English have termed our kasi flavour, Showboating, argue SA was once blessed to have skilful players like Ace Ntsoelengoe, Jomo Sono, and others mentioned earlier, for the same thing those legends did. Now, it can’t get crazier to demonize kasi flavour and say it doesn’t have a place in our game. First start by labelling Ace Ntsoelengoe, Teenage Dladla, Jomo Sono a curse to local football. Be consistent in your argument.
If Makaringe and co.’s kasi flavour does not bare results, it is not their fault. You don’t correct it by a post-match interview, by shouting at players in the dressing room or training field. The blame for not fulfilling their potential is with the system and those who irrationally copied alien coaching methodologies and enforced them on players. The English, German or Dutch concept of coaching does well for their respective bio-social players’ profile. It is relevant and effective for them, not us. The same concepts are not delivering in Africa, especially now when the competitive game becomes very sophisticated through the worldwide infusion of exceptionally skilful young players. For the specifics of South African players and their environment, even the most advanced foreign coaching solutions are, in many ways, simplistic. Basically, such concepts do not provide methodological answers for developing and then maximizing the specific qualities of local players.
A friend has argued, “Showboating is bad? What about Zidane and Messi doing the shibobo on the opposition every single match? Skilling is an everyday art of football. Who decides what is showboating? For what reason? Distraction is an integral part of the game and knee-balls and pivots are done every day to distract. If it is deliberate time-wasting then it is a matter of first the coach to deal with his player and also for the referee to determine if it is intended to delay the match. Nothing in the Laws of the Game stipulates that too much skill is an unfair advantage!” Bang on the money!
Jarome Damone was quoted on the Kickoff website, “Showboating. Does it have a place in football? The short answer is no! Any action that seeks to humiliate or bring the game of football into disrepute is unsporting behaviour and therefore a cautionable offence.” Disrepute? Really?
A style of play must never be defined and imposed. Not by FIFA, not by a referee, not by a match commissioner, and guess what, not even by a coach. It is already defined by the special, unique bio, socio, physiological, psychological traits of players of a specific region. Referees cannot decide how players should play the game. Theirs is to ensure the smooth flow of the game. Football is about players and no one else. Not coaches, not referees, not chairmen, not sponsors, etc., but players.
This is why Mosimane must not add more confusion to the identity-less SA football. It is bad as it is.
– By Sipho ‘King K’ Kekana – SABC Digital News Senior Producer and Sports Analyst, @KingKAzania