Here's one JZ Pirates fans have no trouble toasting ...

Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer found a dressing room in disarray, with dispirited men not knowing what to do to work as a unit, the writer says.
Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer found a dressing room in disarray, with dispirited men not knowing what to do to work as a unit, the writer says.
Image: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images

Football is a game of high emotions, and any event that happens in it can sway feelings to either extreme joy or deep sadness in those who follow it with keenness.

"It's only a game, just get a life" does not cut when the chips are down... and Orlando Pirates supporters will tell you that much.

This season, before the arrival of current coach Josef Zinnbauer in December, despondency had built a home at the Buccaneers.

The team was struggling for positive results under interim coach Rulani Mokwena, and sitting seventh on the log while arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs were flying at the top and, worse, the noisy lot were taunting the Ghost - Bucs fans.

Shockingly, even the eventual dismissal of Mokwena was not widely celebrated, with a huge section of the fan base vouching for him deserving a chance to grow into the position. In reality, many of these fans were just displeased by the appointment of "unknown" Zinnbauer, thinking not much would come from him.

Therefore, better the devil you know...

That he is German did not help, as Bucs fans dismissed the move as a desperate attempt to match Chiefs, whose coach Ernst Middendorp is also German.

Opposition, that means Chiefs by the way, jeered, saying things like "if you can't beat them join them". Of course, it was a reference to Zinnbauer's nationality, and that typically irked The Ghost, which inadvertently, directed negative vibe towards Zinnbauer, who could have known little or nothing about the not-so-cold war between the two Soweto giants.

After all the bickering over two weeks, then came the hour - on December 21. Pirates won 3-1 on Zinnbauer'd debut. They drew 1-1 in the next match, unnecessarily so against Celtic, given the number of scoring chances squandered.

But the "setback" notwithstanding, something pointed to another emerging picture. Gabadinho Mhango, the scorer on the day, had scored twice in the 3-1 win against Leopards.

Mhango scored a hatrick in the next game as Bucs beat Polokwane City 4-1, and when he scored again in 1-0 victory over Sundowns, Zinnbauer status as the saviour was cemented - Once, and Always...

He was now lovingly called "JZ", and taking selfies with the Ghost. Everybody loves a winner, and now no Bucs fan is asking "who's he; what has he won?"

Seven-match winning streak, Bucs are in title-chasing position and Mhango is the league's top scorer; it appears nothing can go wrong with JZ.

Is he the best coach as far as tactics are concerned? Maybe not; time will tell. But what's clear so far, whoever advised Pirates chairperson Irvin Khoza about JZ's ability to manage men was spot-on.

The lithe coach found a dressing room in disarray, with dispirited men not knowing what to do to work as a unit.

The thought of having to work with the third coach in four months was not going to help their mental resolve.

JZ has done wonders with this Bucs team indeed, no matter where he comes from.

The Soweto derby on February 29 will provide the ultimate test for him because beating Chiefs will mean what was an impossible dream for The Ghost two months ago will be a step closer to reality.

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