The appointment of Mandla Ncikazi as head coach
of Maritzburg United on Thursday should be welcomed as another instance of a
local tactician being given the opportunity to further their career at the
highest level of the local game.
For too long South African teams recycled the
same names over and again, each time with little success, without allowing
fresh blood into the arena.
But as we prepare to enter the 2015/16 Premier
Soccer League season, only four teams are coached by non-South Africans, by far
the lowest number in recent memory.
And one of those, University of Pretoria, is
led by Northern Irishman Sammy Troughton, who has been knocking around the
local game for so many decades you might as well call him a South African.
It is interesting to note that the others,
Muhsin Ertugral (Mpumalanga Black Aces), Kosta Papic (Polokwane City) and
Kinnah Phiri (Free State Stars) are also highly experienced in the PSL, showing
the appetite for untried foreign coaches in this country has diminished.
There are a number of factors at play here – I
can assure you, when a job opens up in the PSL, there are always a flood of
foreign CVs, so it is not for a lack of interest.
But teams have learnt, some the hard way, that
you cannot try and put a square peg in a round hole.
The coach’s who are most successful in our top
league are those who understand the South African player and what makes him
That is a grossly simplistic explanation, but
local players often need more information and more molly-coddling than players
in, say for example, established European leagues.
I don’t believe Stuart Baxter would have
anywhere near the success he achieved at Kaizer Chiefs in the last three years
if he had not had the previous experience of coaching Bafana Bafana a decade
That taught him a lot about the environment he
would be working in and what the challenges are that he would be facing.
Take the example of Vladimir Vermezovic, who
has a very fine footballing brain and is an excellent coach.
But he could never set aside what he saw as the
failings of South African players and work around them. It was his way or the
highway and you can only look at his tenure’s at Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando
Pirates as failures.
His inability to mould his coaching style to
the local game proved his downfall, that and his abrasive style.
But South African coaches, even the more fiery
ones such as Gavin Hunt, understand the dynamics of the South African player.
The second thing is that with the wealth of
analytical data on players and matches these days provided by third parties,
coaches have a lot more to work with and can better prepare for games.
This has leveled the playing field for local
coaches, who might not have European experience but are now as equipped as they
could be for the task at hand.
Most have also up-skilled themselves high-level coaching licenses, and so the
need for clubs to bring in expensive foreign imports who need time to adjust to
the local game is not as great.
I would qualify that by saying that if an
outstanding foreign talent becomes available then that should remain a strong
Just look at how veteran Dutch coach Foppe de
Haan transformed a young Ajax Cape Town side from also-rans to what should have
been a championship season in 2010/11, only to be pipped on the final day of
De Haan quickly understood what was required in
the job and became a father figure to the likes of Thulani Serero, George
Maluleka and Thulani Hlatshwayo, who have all gone on to bigger things.
Nick Said is the Business Director at Mzanzi Football.
Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse
views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their
own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.