Floyd Mbele: Sredojevic’s bombshell exit left Orlando Pirates in the lurch

Milutin Sredojevic , coach of Orlando Pirates reacts during the 2018 Telkom Knockout semifinal match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban on 24 November 2018.
Milutin Sredojevic , coach of Orlando Pirates reacts during the 2018 Telkom Knockout semifinal match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban on 24 November 2018.
Image: ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Milutin Sredojevic’s bombshell departure three games into the 2019-20 Premier Soccer League season derailed all Orlando Pirates’ well-laid plans for success in the campaign‚ Buccaneers administrative manager Floyd Mbele has admitted.

After two seasons as runners-up in the Absa Premiership‚ and missing out narrowly on cups to end what is now an almost six-year trophy drought‚ 2019-20 was to be the season where former Uganda boss Sredojevic pushed hard for silverware with a talent-laden squad.

Three games – two in the league and one in Caf Champions League - into the 2019-20 season Sredojevic promptly left Pirates‚ and the country‚ in bizarre circumstances.

The coach's exit was announced on Friday‚ August 16. He initially claimed to be travelling to Serbia to visit his ill mother‚ but by Sunday‚ August 18 turned up in Cairo to sign for Egyptian giants Zamalek for what turned out to be a brief spell.

That Sunday a media story also broke of a case of indecent exposure having been opened against Sredojevic at the SA Police Service.

Pirates were left to count the cost‚ and that came to a plunge down the league standings into the bottom half as caretaker-coach Rulani Mokwena‚ Sredojevic’s assistant‚ battled to plug the holes in a Buccaneer ship that had struck rocks.

German Joseph Zinnbauer arrived in December and turned things around with a dramatic winning streak. But in fourth place as the league was suspended on March 16 due to the coronavirus‚ Pirates were headed for another trophyless campaign even if the PSL does find a way to complete the season.

Mbele was asked how if Sredojevic’s strange departure had made it difficult for Pirates administratively in 2019-20.

“It never is [easy]‚ because when you go through preseason your assumption as a club is that everybody who is there is going to be there for the rest of the season‚” he said.

“Now‚ if one of your key components moves out it means you must realign. And it’s not necessarily the best‚ because it’s a toss and turn.

“You’re hoping that something gives but you’re also hoping that nothing ever goes bad. And it’s an experience. And we surely will make sure that we avoid something of that nature taking place.

“But to the extent that you are also dealing with human beings who have got aspirations‚ ambitions and so on you can’t completely control that part. It’s a variable that you have no control over. It’s not easy.”

Pirates had 40 points from 23 games when the Premiership was suspended on March 16‚ eight points behind leaders Kaizer Chiefs (48 from 22).