Why Pitso Mosimane is a fine ambassador for SA football and a legend of the game

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane.
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Pitso Mosimane has long spoken of taking South African football to the rest of the continent and building the country’s brand in the eyes of the rest of the world.

It is why he is so passionate about Caf Champions League football‚ the hardest competition on the continent to win‚ but one that grabs the attention of fans from North Africa in particular.

While other Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs focus on domestic success in the lucrative league and cup competitions on offer in the country‚ Mosimane has always said his focus is on bigger things and a bigger picture.

It is a stance at times mocked by his critics‚ but he has been undoubtedly successful‚ taking Mamelodi Sundowns to Champions League glory in 2016 and the latter stages of the continent’s top competition in most of the seasons since.

Winning the Caf Coach of the Year for 2016 helped to grow that legend further.

It has built him a steadily growing fan base‚ especially in North Africa‚ where the competitiveness of his Sundowns in the continent’s elite competition team has brought him huge adoration.

The hurdles and shenanigans that opposition coaches‚ players‚ fans and officials throw at Sundowns when they travel abroad are actually a massive sign of respect for Mosimane.

It shows he is admired as an opponent and revered as a coach that can bring Sundowns more success.

This was never better illustrated when Mosimane arrived in Cairo last week for a stint as an analyst for Egyptian television.

The red carpet was rolled out for him and the respect with which he was received evident for all to see.

It is doubtful many fans across the continent have heard of Gavin Hunt‚ Steve Komphela or‚ prior to this Africa Cup of Nations‚ even Stuart Baxter.

But Mosimane they know‚ and so too Eric Tinkler‚ whose name has been bandied about in recent times for jobs in North Africa. Why?

Because he has coached in two CAF Confederation Cup finals and so has earned the right to garner that respect.

Many South African fans‚ and some coaches‚ believe the continental competitions do not matter.

But that means you will always be in a ‘box’‚ your exposure limited to South African football only. A big fish in a small pond.

What Mosimane has always strived to do is to think bigger‚ to become more universally known through growing the Sundowns brand‚ and‚ he hopes‚ be a big fish in a much bigger pond.

He has not limited his ambition to South African domestic football‚ as some have‚ but tried to push his boundaries further.

That he does not have a bigger fan base‚ or level of respect‚ in his own country is likely down to the fact that he has not coached Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates.

Had he taken either to league and continental glory‚ he would have his legend status cemented already.

He is also a ‘straight shooter’‚ a coach who calls it as he sees it‚ and that rubs many up the wrong way.

People don’t like his criticism of other teams‚ players and coaches‚ but in Mosimane’s mind he is just pointing out the obvious.

His at times brutal honesty is more respected in North Africa‚ where they see what he sees‚ and don’t try and hide behind the facts or club loyalties.

There is no doubt that Mosimane has also played the diplomat card when abroad and been respectful to Sundowns’ hosts‚ even when there is perhaps reason not to be.

He is a fine ambassador for South African football‚ possibly our greatest one at present in an African football context.

And he has done it by sticking to his principles and his belief that the African continent is where his ambitions should lie‚ and not only matters at home.

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