‘We’ve been in Africa for long’: Mosimane on the step into Asia with Ahli

Pitso Mosimane addresses a press conference in Sandton on September 29 2022 on his new job at Al-Ahli Saudi FC.
Pitso Mosimane addresses a press conference in Sandton on September 29 2022 on his new job at Al-Ahli Saudi FC.
Image: Marc Strydom

For Pitso Mosimane and his technical staff, the step out of Africa is about breaking barriers and exploring a new theatre of football in Asia, he said on his decision to join Al-Ahli Saudi FC.

For Mosimane and his technical staff — fitness trainer KB Rangoaga and performance analysts Musi Matlaba and Kyle Solomon — finding the right project has become the aim when strategising their next move.

It worked for them at Al Ahly, where in two years Mosimane, the first black sub-Saharan African to coach the Egyptian giants, won back-to-back Caf Champions League and Caf Super Cup titles, two bronze medals at the Fifa Club World Cup and the Egypt Cup.

There are few continents coaches from Africa can easily switch to, but a small band of South Africans recently have made such steps. In the space of two months Benni McCarthy has become forwards coach at Manchester United, Roger De Sa is World Cup-bound as assistant to Carlos Queiroz with Iran and Fadlu Davids has joined Lokomotiv Moscow as assistant to Josef Zinnbauer.

Mosimane told a press conference in Sandton on Thursday he has a two-year mandate to restore Ahli — one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest clubs, who suffered a shock relegation from the Pro League to the Yelo League in 2021-22 — to the top-flight and to consolidate their position there.

“We made the proper selection on finding the right project,” Mosimane said.

“We had many criteria. One is breaking barriers, and two is to move out of the continent because we’ve been in Africa for long.

“And to be honest for my team, you ask what is it we want to win in club football in Africa? And the I think that answer is very simple — that now we are recycling.

“How exciting and challenging is it for us to go to a fourth Caf Champions League final in a row? We have to get a different challenge.

Pitso Mosimane and his technical staff wanted to take on a challenge where they can make a difference, the coach said on accepting the job at relegated Saudi giants Al-Ahli Saudi

“That’s why we felt Asia was a good place to test ourselves and see what’s there, and what contributions we could make.

“I always speak to the SA coaches, and if you look at what the Dutch and the Serbians are doing, and the Italians are also starting to move to other countries — we [South Africans] need to move to other countries in Africa.

“You can’t tell me we don’t have a coach in the PSL who can go to Tanzania where the football is so exciting.

“And I’m happy Benni has broken the barrier of English football. With Fadlu, it doesn’t matter whether he’s an assistant, he’s now in Russia and European football and thanks to ‘JZ’ [Zinnbauer].

“SA players and coaches need to move. And if Europe is not easy to move into, we need to go to North Africa and that will give you a step into the Middle East and Asian football. Roger De Sa is in Asian football now with Carlos Queiroz.”

Mosimane said MT Sports, the agency of wife and representative Moira Tlhagale, was tasked with handpicking “the project we think is challenging and also takes us out of our comfort zone”.

“And the guys [his team] looked at the league, we looked at the expectations, and it’s also making history for us and keeping our legacy in that space in the Middle East.

“You can coach a team in the top-flight that, for example, sitting in 12th place and then you got to eighth place by the end of the season. So you are in the Pro League, but how much of a difference can you make from that?

“This one is a big club — it’s among the top four in Saudi. And the exciting thing, and also a bit of a risk, is you have to take this team back to the Pro League.

“And how beautiful will it be for the city of Jeddah — you must understand how big that city is. I think everybody knows Jeddah from the religion side of Mecca that is the [holy] city everybody [in Islam] goes to.

“We felt it would be wonderful to make history and give the people of Saudi an Al-Ahli that’s back in the Pro League”

Mosimane said “MT Sports received numerous offers from clubs and national teams around the world. He said Al-Ahli’s technical staff are awaiting their Saudi visas before travelling to take up their post. 

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