Pi­rates chart new course

With one de­par­ture and a new coach, Khoza may right Bucs’ ship

CityPress - - Sport - MONDLI MAKHANYA mondli.makhanya@city­press.co.za

This week’s an­nounce­ment of the im­mi­nent de­par­ture of Or­lando Pi­rates cap­tain Oupa “Ace” Many­isa to Mamelodi Sun­downs came as a huge shock to the foot­ball fra­ter­nity.

The main rea­son for this shock is that trans­fers of that mag­ni­tude are usu­ally pre­ceded by some spec­u­la­tion. In this case, there was not a whis­per, de­spite the fact that there had been pre­vi­ous at­tempts – solidly re­buffed – by Sun­downs to nab him.

An­other rea­son is that Many­isa was al­ways ex­pected to see out the twi­light years of his ca­reer at Pi­rates. Like the Frank Lam­pards and Steven Ger­rards of this world, it was hard to imag­ine him play­ing for an­other PSL team.

The third – and per­haps the most im­por­tant – rea­son was Many­isa’s key role in help­ing the Buc­ca­neers achieve two back-to-back tre­bles, mount two out­stand­ing African cam­paigns and be a per­ma­nent fix­ture in do­mes­tic cup fi­nal fix­tures.

For these rea­sons, he was Mr Pi­rates, a player whose dom­i­nance was key to the suc­cess of the Buc­ca­neers and whose ab­sence or off-form days dented the team’s ef­fec­tive­ness. Fol­low­ing the cat­a­strophic 2016/17 sea­son, it was sur­mised that Cap­tain Ace would spear­head the re­vival of Pi­rates’ for­tunes in the com­ing sea­son when a new coach ar­rived. This was er­ro­neous think­ing. For Pi­rates to rise again, Many­isa had to exit.

Hav­ing once rep­re­sented the best of Pi­rates in the glory sea­sons, Many­isa now rep­re­sented the worst. The Ace who came back from in­jury was jaded.

As leader, he was no Lucky Lekg­wathi or Siyabonga Sang­weni, men who could rally the troops through words and per­for­mance. Off the field, he had be­come far from ex­em­plary and was part of the dis­cord and chaos that was the Bucs camp.

Ace has given what he could to Pi­rates, hav­ing once achieved the in­cred­i­ble by play­ing 51 out of 53 games in league, cup and con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tions in the 2013/14 sea­son. It is now time for him to re­dis­cover his mojo else­where.

Good luck to him!

With Many­isa’s de­par­ture, Pi­rates now have the op­por­tu­nity to re­set and chart a new way for­ward.

The re­cruit­ment of Mi­lutin “Mi­cho” Sre­do­je­vić as head coach pro­vides chair Irvin Khoza a chance to re­deem him­self in the eyes of the faith­ful, whose an­gry grum­bles were be­gin­ning to sound like those of the South African pop­u­la­tion when talk­ing about the pres­i­dent.

Khoza’s de­ci­sion to let go of Ruud Krol in 2011 earned him the ire of “The Ghost”. The first tre­ble was sup­posed to the be­gin­ning of a pro­longed pe­riod of glory. The suc­cess of the sec­ond tre­ble, won un­der Au­gusto Pala­cios in 2012, was achieved on the back of the fuel that Krol had in­jected into the side. Roger De Sá, the next per­ma­nent ap­point­ment, was a one-di­men­sional coach who was not Pi­rates ma­te­rial.

De Sá’s re­place­ment with Vladimir “VV” Ver­me­zović, an un­hinged and iras­ci­ble Serb, was dis­as­trous. He didn’t last. The con­fir­ma­tion of Eric Tin­kler, who had been as­sis­tant to De Sá and VV was an in­spired gam­ble that could have laid a great foun­da­tion for the com­ing sea­sons. But he, too, was in­ex­pli­ca­bly let go just as the team was gelling. A bit more in­vest­ment of time in Tin­kler would have been reap­ing in­cred­i­ble re­sults by now. The pe­riod that fol­lowed Tin­kler’s de­par­ture was noth­ing short of cat­a­clysmic. The short reign of hot-headed Muhsin Er­tuğral ended in hu­mil­i­a­tion and he was re­placed by a now over-the-hill Pala­cios.

With Pi­rates squads fail­ing to find the back of the net while the op­po­si­tion was find­ing the back of theirs mul­ti­ple times, Khoza’s so­lu­tion was un­known Swede Kjell Jonevret, who had an emas­cu­lated CV. Pi­rates went from un­der­whelm­ing to bor­ing. At some point dur­ing the sea­son, the red lights of the rel­e­ga­tion zone flashed brightly. The rest is a his­tory too painful to re­count.

It is now time to erase those mem­o­ries. Time for ther­apy.

Even though it did not have the in­put of the in­com­ing coach, Pi­rates’ off-sea­son trans­fer ac­tiv­ity has been en­cour­ag­ing. The ar­rival of vet­eran goal­keeper Wayne Sandi­lands will cer­tainly halt the leak­ing at the back. Twenty-year-old Nige­rian striker Chris­tian Obio­zor, who is seen as a great prospect for the Su­per Ea­gles, seems to be the an­swer to the blunt at­tack. Su­per­tal­ented cen­tral mid­fielder Tham­sanqa Sang­weni could grow into an even bet­ter cre­ative as­set than what the fal­ter­ing Many­isa was to­wards the end of his Pi­rates ca­reer. He is also hard man.

Sre­do­je­vić’s first big task will be to kill the fac­tions that have ren­dered the Pi­rates team more di­vided than the ANC lead­ing up to the De­cem­ber elec­tive con­fer­ence. Tales com­ing from the camp speak of play­ers hardly talk­ing to each other in the change rooms, send­ing passes only to friends even when some­one else is in a bet­ter po­si­tion and that the si­lence on the team bus re­sem­bles a Bud­dhist re­treat.

With Khoza’s help, Sre­do­je­vić will also have to stand firm against that peren­nial Pi­rates prob­lem: the in­vis­i­ble hand of se­nior ex­ec­u­tives who in­ter­fere in team se­lec­tion. This cul­ture, which is al­legedly driven by the said se­nior ex­ec­u­tives’ per­sonal busi­ness in­ter­ests in par­tic­u­lar play­ers, is foot­ball’s worst-kept se­cret. Play­ers know it, past coaches talk about it, journalists know it and many fans know. Surely, then, Khoza must know about it too.

If Sre­do­je­vić is to bring Pi­rates back to the sum­mit of Kil­i­man­jaro, it is im­por­tant for Khoza to stamp this in­ter­fer­ence prob­lem out once and for all. Oth­er­wise, the in­vest­ments of this sea­son will come to naught and The Ghost will be com­pelled to re­sort to what we are best known for when things are not go­ing right.


NEW BROOM Pi­rates’ Irvin Khoza wel­comed Mi­lutin Sre­do­je­vić this week


GONE Oupa Many­isa left Bucs this week

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