JOHANNESBURG, December 12 – The return for a second spell at Kaizer Chiefs for head coach Ernst Middendorp opens up the debate as to whether local coaches are getting a fair deal.
A case can certainly be made that foreign-born coaches are more trusted by Premier Soccer League (PSL) club bosses than their South African colleagues.
With a few exceptions, this holds especially true if one looks at the list of coaches employed at the three most popular teams in the country, Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns, over the past 15 to 20 years.
Granted, Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic has done exceptionally well upon his return 12-years later.
It is, however, worth noting that during his time out of South Africa, coach ‘Micho’ enjoyed a good measure of success across the African continent, and managed two national teams as well – Rwanda and Uganda. So by the time Bucs re-hired him, he was clearly a man whose CV, coaching capabilities and experience had grown markedly.
On the flip side, there have been plenty examples of underachieving foreigners at Pirates, Kjell Jonevret, Muhsin Ertugral (who also had two stints at Chiefs), Jean-Yves Kerjean, one-time Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic, Kosta Papic (who also worked at Chiefs and who was popular at Bucs despite not winning any trophies) and Julio Leal.
To be fair, Ruud Krol was a big success at Pirates, as were the late Ted Dumitru and Stuart Baxter, who both won league and cup trophies at Chiefs. Since 2000 though, Steve Komphela and co-coaches Doctor Khumalo and Ace Khuse have been the only South African-born men to be entrusted with the reigns at Amakhosi.
It should be noted that Pirates are grooming Rhulani Mokwena for the hot seat in the future, and one would hope that Shaun Bartlett’s appointment as assistant coach at Chiefs was taken with an eye on him leading the club in years to come.
And of course Sundowns have flourished and won regular silverware, not least the CAF Champions League, with Pitso Mosimane, although prior to his joining, Hristo Stoitchkov, Henri Michel, Oscar Fullone, Angel Cappa and Antonio Habas all had limited to no success.
Still, when Mosimane won the domestic league title in 2014, he was the first black South African to do so in the PSL era, a rather startling statistic.
Part of what adds to the challenge of giving more local coaches the chance to prove themselves, is the fickle nature of the job; with a few exceptions such as Mosimane and Gavin Hunt at Bidvest Wits, and Komphela’s three-year spell with Amakhosi, not many get even as much as 12-months before being axed.
Take someone like Dan Malesela, by all accounts a very good coach. But having been fired by Chippa United, he might now be viewed by other club bosses as an undesirable choice, and instead they would rather look abroad for their next appointment.
There’s also Manqoba Mngqithi, who made his name as an astute tactician at Golden Arrows before becoming assistant to Mosimane at Sundowns. Before the current season started he was quoted as saying:
“I still have a contract with Sundowns but I want to make it clear that when I leave here I would like to stand on my own and coach a club that is prepared to win the league title. I think it is time for me to show what I have learned at Sundowns.”
Yet there is very seldom talk about Mngqithi being linked to another PSL team; a good offer would surely tempt him to leave Chloorkop.
National Under-20 coach, the highly-qualified Thabo Senong, is another who rarely gets mentioned, and never seems to come into the reckoning for a plumb job in the PSL.
Should someone like Clinton Larsen, who has done great work in moulding an Arrows side made largely of inexperienced players, not come into the picture for one of the big positions in the future? Has AmaZulu’s Cavin Johnson not done enough to be given a shot higher up the ladder, or will the highly ambitious and qualified Maritzburg United coach Fadlu Davids ever come into contention for a major local job?
In a country where success is still often measured by European ‘standards’, Benni McCarthy’s Champions League winners medal and success in the English Premiership as a player may have helped him break into the PSL as a coach as quickly as he did, and it’s certainly more likely he’ll be given a chance at one of the ‘big’ teams than some of his fellow local coaches.
Not to say he wouldn’t potentially deserve it, rather, it’s the hiring and thought process of club bosses – where a European footballing background is seemingly higher valued than local experience – that’s in question here.
In a recent interview with Goal, former PSL coach Zeca Marques summed it up well:
“It’s sad because we respect a foreign coach more than a local coach, and how do we grow our football when we don’t hire local coaches?
“Sometimes you have a certain brand of football that you play and want to develop, but a coach will not be able to give it to you. These things should be looked at before appointing a foreign coach.
“I believe the perception must change. The notion that foreign coaches are better than South African coaches does not work. It is not right and true. Look at Kaizer Chiefs, a foreign coach has come and failed, but they have another one and they don’t offer anything new to us or our football.”
Another issue is a lack of resources. For the most part, top-flight head coaches, and some in the National First Division are well looked after. But go down a level or three, and coaches are generally paid peanuts for what is an all-encompassing position with a high level of responsibility.
It’s even worse for coaches at youth level, where the most crucial development should be happening. This means that promising young coaches are often forced to find other employment, rather than being able to fully commit to their job and rise up the ranks.
And so while the South African Football Association can be commended for their commitment to developing certified coaches, they should also be looking at how to improve a coach’s journey after he or she has qualified. (ANA)