MTN8 final – a tale of two coaches who would love to win a trophy

Kaito Tembo, coach of Supersport United and Benni McCarthy, coach of Cape Town City.
Kaito Tembo, coach of Supersport United and Benni McCarthy, coach of Cape Town City.
Image: ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Saturday’s MTN8 final is a tale of two coaches – SuperSport United’s Kaitano Tembo and Cape Town City’s Benni McCarthy – who would dearly love to win a trophy.

When would a coach not‚ you might ask? In this case though‚ in this cup final at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban (kickoff 7pm)‚ just a little more than usual.

Uefa Champions League winner McCarthy‚ a self-professed prophet of the manager he won that trophy under in 2004‚ Jose Mourinho‚ has self-deprecatingly admitted to nervousness at the start of his coaching career.

He is‚ and always has been‚ a winner. A trophy would mean everything to a coach who considered not continuing at City at the end of 2017-18‚ his rookie head coaching season.

Tembo was appointed after weeks of speculation and apparent dragging of feet by the club after seeing SuperSport through a tough end of last season after Eric Tinkler’s departure.

He steered a United who never recovered from an exhausting run to the 2017 Caf Confederation Cup - and losing narrowly‚ 2-1 on aggregate against TP Mazembe in the final - clear of their first-ever relegation battle.

He oversaw the preseason‚ and still a permanent appointment took time.

Even recently‚ long-time faithful servant and assistant-coach Tembo having reached a cup final‚ there have been murmurs of a possible return to SuperSport of current Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter.

Tembo was asked this week‚ somewhat diplomatically‚ not whether he felt he’d met expectations‚ but whether the job had met his.

He responded as diplomatically.

“Well‚ I don’t really know how to answer that‚ because with expectations sometimes all you can do is try and prepare the team‚ and try and do your best‚ and try and manage the squad so that you can be able to get good results‚” he said.

“But in terms of expectations‚ to be honest‚ I never really expected much. But I trust in the players. That’s why I never really thought about making too many changes.

“Because I knew what I have‚ I knew the kinds of players I have‚ I knew where we came from.

“I knew the amount of work they had put in [last season]. You know‚ for us to get to the Confed Cup final‚ I think people didn’t realise that the players were running on empty after that.

“And you know‚ when you lose a cup final like that‚ where you have put everything into it‚ it sometimes deflates you. And that’s what happened to us last season.

“Looking at it from the outside you won’t be able to see that. But as someone who’s always been with them‚ I had to travel with them 20 hours to go to Sudan‚ 20 hours coming back.

“And sometimes we got stuck on the plane‚ midair‚ because we couldn’t land‚ like going to Liberia. Those were scary moments.

“But I was with them‚ and I know. So it was easy for me to take it and try and work with them‚ knowing that it affected them in terms of confidence.

“Mentally and emotionally and physically they were drained. So my job was to try and revive them. And I knew how to do it.

“And probably we are seeing the results. Although we still have a long way to go.”

Of the two more secure – it is a cruel profession when one must entertain the security of a cup final-reaching coach – one would think it was McCarthy.

Bafana’s all-time scorer is in his second cup final‚ having lost on penalties against Tinkler’s SuperSport at the same venue in the MTN8 last year.

He managed a creditable sixth in the Absa Premiership in his rookie season. City owner John Comitis is a big fan‚ knows the profile that McCarthy brings to his club‚ and seems content to let the Citizens be McCarthy’s training bicycle‚ with no doubt bigger steps to follow for the coach.

For McCarthy‚ Saturday’s final is a matter of pride and winning and trophy hunger‚ and breaking the duck as a coach early‚ which could yield more things to come.

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