Last week at the Lucas “Masterpieces” Moripe Stadium, Mamelodi Sundowns produced the most hard fought victory of the season over the recently crowned MTN Top 8 champions Ajax Cape Town.
The 3-2 thriller started off by way of a Teko Modise’s free-kick which opened the score-line in the first stanza, then Bantu Mzwakali’s equaliser in the 36th min, the half was capped by an inexplicable Cecil Lolo own-goal header off a Katlego Mashego square pass to put Downs ahead by 2-1 at half time.
The Urban Warriors’ lanky striker Nathan Paulse responded straight after the break converting a penalty which was awarded as a consequence of Ramahlwe Mphahlele’s foul on Franklin Cale in the box. And then, as if sent by the Mamelodi Gods, substitute Anthony Laffor scored a last-gasp winner in stoppage time to secure the three points for the Brazilians.
As all of this was unfolding on the field of play, something peculiar was happening in the grand stands. Okay, maybe I use the word “peculiar” loosely, since scenes like these have become the norm at Mamelodi Sundowns FC fixtures (Not unless you have been living under a rock for the last three years or six years).
We all know that every eighteen months or so, there is a minority group of supporters who show up at the stadium in true “toyi-toyi” fashion demanding the coach’s axing. They start off with 10-15 guys singing, and then gather momentum with another thirty to forty more “protesters”. They are normally well rehearsed, going through their rendition of football protest songs like a jukebox. They position themselves very well, right there in front of the media box for the cameras to get good pictures, as they make it very uncomfortable for the coach and players to get through the tunnel. Then once the coach is gone under covers, the protesters disappear into thin air, like nothing happened. This normally happens for a couple of fixtures, and then the coach is indeed axed.
The funny thing is (and I mean funny peculiar, not funny in a humorous way) granted, this protest normally occurs at the back of a few bad results. But it always seems as out of place, because the team certainly look to be moving in the right direction. For an example, when Johan Neeskens was subjected to the same “protest,” he had just managed to get to play two cup finals in eight months (Nedbank Cup and Telkom Cup). This was after the club had not even made a cup final since May of 2008; and yet he was subjected to the same vitriol and he was fired weeks after that.
Antonio Lopez Habas had suffered a string of few bad results which saw the team relinquish a spot at the summit of the log. But he had gotten them there, so it stood to reason that he could get them back. But he was never allowed the opportunity to fix it. He was subjected to the same and he terminated his relationship with the club fearing for his family’s safety.
Now as if it was a plot in a badly written tele-novela sequel, the Brazillians came into the fixture against Ajax Cape Town sitting twelfth on the log, after two back to back losses against MP Black Aces and Golden Arrows. However, the win against Ajax Cape Town pushed them up to seventh place, five points behind the Bidvest Wits who were log leaders on the day. They had managed to beat Ajax Cape Town who were sitting second on the log and who had beaten Orlando Pirates, Bidvest Wits and Kaizer Chiefs to become Top 8 champions. Not only that, but they also had beaten top of the log Bidvest Wits by four goals to two just three weeks before that. The protest didn’t make sense especially because it was against a coach who produced two trophies in two seasons, one of which was a record breaking league title.
It was only in the post-match interview when coach Mosimane said “we only signed three players this year Fiston Abdul Razak, Leonardo Castro and Soumahoro Bangaly” that a light-bulb went off in my head.
Could it be?
Remember that in January of 2012 when Johan Neeskens experienced his run in with the “protesters”, he had also gone through a quiet transfer window which is uncharacteristic of the club in the middle of 2012. Neeskens’ only real transfers from South African clubs he signed were Edward Manqele from Free State Stars, Eleazar Rodgers and Waine Arendse both from Santos FC. The rest of the transfers were international transfers, players returning back from loan or players joining the club unattached.
Antonio Lopez Habas, was ousted in Feb of 2011, and the only real South African transfers he did in January of 2011 was Teko Modise from Orlando Pirates and Themba Zwane from Vardos FC (who was sent on loan straight after that). The rest of the deals were done in the last but one window, which he had little or no involvement in.
Could it be? Is it possible that the club seems to oust a coach whenever he seeks to stop the acquisition of more players? But if it that was the case, then why would they do that?
On the one hand, if the coach terminates the contract because “he fears for his life”, the club would not have to pay him out the balance of his contract. But on the other hand, surely the owners of the club would appreciate it if the man at the helm says “I want to do more with less”. It is a basic principle in financial management; you generally achieve the highest return when you employ the least resources. Patrice Motsepe is a rich man because he understands that principle. Hell, Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger has managed to keep his job for years just by simply applying that principle.
So if it is not owners who are orchestrating this lèse-majesté on the club mentor, then who is it?
I hate to cast aspersions, but the normal process of elimination says we have to cast a glance at those people who stand to lose something if the transfers do not happen. If it were the agents, we would see this at other clubs as well. But we don’t.
Who is it? Bear in mind that this person would have to have access to the branches to pull this off.
Let me leave that for you to ponder.
Just before I go let me say this. This so-called “protest”, has left a sour taste in my mouth. Because while all the media houses laid in wait for similar scenes at Olen Park, the country failed to savour a beautiful moment in SA football. The match between Jomo Cosmos and Mamelodi Sundowns was a “Farther and Son Clash” between two key figures in South Africa’s post apartheid football history. And we missed it.
Just a thought.
The tempest prognosticator
Themba A. Dikgale