Coaching, a thankless task?
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Coaching is a very complicated part of the game of soccer. It can be so easy and yet so hard.
One thing that one can agree on, is that it’s quite a hazardous job.
You might be surprised why I say coaching can be easy. In fact, it can be a breeze. This is because as a coach, of a professional club that is, you are given a bunch of highly-talented players who have been assembled at a high price and just to guide them into doing something that is God-given to them.
All that one needs is a proper human management skill.
Which brings me to another point: That of pondering why we still insist on calling them coaches here in South Africa.
I totally agree with the term used in England, that of Manager.
It has always made me wonder why that would a sane person be so keen to take a job where his fate will always be determined by a bunch of 11 egocentric individuals.
Add to that club bosses who are also quite very full of themselves as most of them are usually loaded individuals who don’t care a hoot about the next person as long as his toy - the football club in this instance - brings him continuous joy.
You might be wondering what I’m going on about, well this thought about coaches was brought about by last week’s developments in the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
Following a series of media speculation, Wits came out in the open to say indeed they had opened negotiations with SuperSport United mentor, Gavin Hunt, with a view of him joining them next season.
And therein lies the rub.
Wits have a coach in the name of Clive Barker who was roped in this season to steer their ship that had hit some stormy waters.
How would you feel if your boss(es) started talking to somebody about your job while you were still at the helm? Not good I suppose.
Barker also shocked many when he took the job as he had a cushy position at AmaZulu where he played the role of club ambassador and many thought he was enjoying the retirement village.
Why he would take up such a pressure-cooker of a job, remains a puzzle.
Or is it true that the masses opium has such a bug that once it bites you, you are doomed?
To paraphrase one wisecrack “In life there are two certainties, that we are all going to die and that coaches will be fired.”
So why do coaches love this thankless job so much, you may ask?
I don’t have an answer.
Club owners are quite trigger-happy as they fire coaches at the drop of the hat and players also just don’t perform when they no longer want the coach.
Remember how Mamelodi Sundowns players started dragging their feet under the tutelage of Johan Neeskens after he had lambasted them in the media and also told the hacks where to get off?
They played so badly that they became the whipping boys and were at some stage close to relegation, until Neeskens was fired and former Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane was brought in. Look at them now, same squad!
So why would anyone take such a risky job?
Sunderland bosses fired Martin O’Neal after the weekend’s 1-0 loss to champions-elect Manchester United. Is that fair? I mean, United are on such a roll that they have just demolished almost all opposition in the English Premiership.
How many times have we seen coaches being escorted by police vans out of the stadium as supporters bayed for their blood. Does any human being deserve such, in the name of a job?
Except for Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger in England and our own Jomo Sono who owns and coaches his club, no coach is secure from the proverbial boot.
Sir Alex and Wenger have enjoyed prolonged stays due to their achievements, much as Wenger has been going through a dry patch and its only sentiment that is still keeping him at the Emirates.
But the world over, coaches are the easiest scapegoats who are fired at the drop of the hat even if the poor results are due to the fat-cats called players.
And one always wonders why coaches never form their own association or a union or is it because as soon as one is fired, there is always a queue of those waiting to take over?
Another PSL coach about whom murmurs have began among supporters, is Orlando Pirates’ Roger de Sa. The former Wits mentor came in at the back of a double treble by the club and by the look of things he is not going to maintain that.
As things stand, only winning the league, in which they trail arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs by seven points with a game in hand, can save him.
Expect the usual coaching musical chairs come end of season.S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports
journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the
biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently
City Press Sports Editor.
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