Johannesburg - He casually strolled in at Chloorkop, Sundowns’ training ground, wearing a Bafana Bafana shirt and shorts, but Pitso Mosimane has no intention of going back to his former job coaching the national team.
He is now determined to build on his legacy at Mamelodi Sundowns after celebrating the team’s victory in the CAF Champions League in Cairo, Egypt, last week.
However, Mosimane said his time with Bafana had prepared him for his role at Sundowns. “In my time there, we used to play against the big guns – teams in Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon and Egypt – because I knew the importance of playing top opponents,” said the coach.
“We might not have won all those games, but they prepared the players – unlike playing against minnows and beating them.”
Since winning the CAF league last weekend, Mosimane has not had a chance to celebrate his biggest football achievement yet, because of the fixtures The Brazilians have had to play.
Only 36 hours after touching down back home, triumphant from Cairo, Masandawana had to switch its focus towards retaining the Telkom Knockout title they won last season by taking to the field against Polokwane City on Thursday night. They beat City 2-0.
But this is the kind of life that Jingles is accustomed to. “I live game by game, and that is my problem. I am a guy who does not know how to look back because before I look back, I always have a game [ahead of me].”
Mosimane revealed what he saw when he first arrived at Chloorkop in December 2012: Sundowns had not won a trophy in seven years. “When I got here, I found the trophy cabinet full of old cups, some of which I won as a player here. I vowed to change this. Some people thought I was being arrogant or was daydreaming.”
He said he told Chloorkop staff to create more space for more trophies.
“I put my head on the block and I needed to match what I said with actions – because if it backfired, they were going to say I had failed.
“That pushed me to match my promises with performances.”
He said his trip to the home ground of Spanish giants Barcelona opened his eyes after seeing the team’s memorabilia at the club museum.
“They have lined up all their trophies. I also lived in that space when I played in Europe. So, where are the archives for our club?”
Mosimane has since added a few trophies to the Downs cabinet – two Absa Premiership titles, the Nedbank Cup, the Telkom Knockout and the CAF Champions League. But he is not done yet.
“When I went to SuperSport United, they were second from the bottom on the log. When I came here [to Downs], the club was fighting for survival. When I went to Bafana, there was no reference, and it was tough.
“I must get something that is ready. But I still pride myself on the fact that during my time with the national team, they were number four on the continent and 58 in the world. I know I did not have the best record there, but I had a good record and will never forget it.”
He said Sundowns would go full steam ahead next year to prove their victory was no fluke. “What excuse are we going to have: travel, referees, bad pitches, no direct flights? That talk must end. There can never be excuses, because we made it. Were we lucky?”
He said it was important for the country to maintain its four CAF spots for the next 10 years. “But clubs willing to conquer the continent should be prepared to sacrifice certain things. It was never easy for Downs as we lost the league title and cup competitions along the way.
“In golf they have the Masters, athletics has big marathons and tennis has Grand Slam events. We have to show that we belong in that space and silence those who say we made it via the back door. It can be done.”
He urged the country’s clubs to take continental competitions seriously.
Mosimane also revealed he hated Sunday matches as they took time away from his family. “My family is short-changed because I am forever away from them. I like Saturday matches because I can sit and relax with my family on Sunday. That is the only time when everybody is at home.
“Fortunately, our families understand and are supportive. I cannot thank them enough as the players hardly see their families.”