Kjell Jonevret

Kick Off - - INSIDE -

The axed coach gives his views on the in­ner work­ings at Or­lando Pi­rates, and shares his thoughts on South African foot­ball

“When I Was at PI­rates, I saW the Play­ers’ cars, they Were def­I­nItely bIg­ger than mIne.”

Former Or­lando Pi­rates coach Kjell Jonevret only spent a few months with the Soweto gi­ants be­fore re­sign­ing ahead of the new sea­son. In this in­ter­view with Kick Off’s Peter du Toit and Zola Doda, the Swede opens up about his time in South Africa and how the lo­cal league is bet­ter or­gan­ised than he thought. KICK OFF: Kjell, you did an in­ter­view with our sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion Soc­cer Lad­uma re­cently where you spoke about your time at Or­lando Pi­rates. Now let’s talk about other im­por­tant is­sues. As a for­eign coach, what did you make of South African foot­ball?

Kjell Jonevret: I think ten or fif­teen years ago – maybe I’m wrong – South African play­ers seemed more hun­gry to get to Europe. I re­mem­ber when I brought in Lance Davids and Siyabonga Nomvethe, and we also tried re­ally, re­ally hard to get Bene­dict Vi­lakazi, the small guy! There were lots of South African play­ers around Europe in smaller coun­tries, but also big­ger leagues. Maybe the League [PSL] has grown: I heard it is the tenth or the eleventh big­gest league in the world right now eco­nom­i­cally.

What has grown is the play­ers’ salaries, com­pared to those days …

Ja, so maybe they are a lit­tle bit sat­is­fied to stay here. If they play for a big­ger club in South Africa it could be enough. When I was at Pi­rates, I saw the play­ers’ cars, they were def­i­nitely big­ger than mine [laughs]. Maybe now they are happy to re­main here. An­other prob­lem could be that when we start work­ing with play­ers in our academies back home, they start work­ing at school when they are 15 or 16 years old. Even if they play for dif­fer­ent clubs, there are still foot­ball classes at school. They start learn­ing things and when they get to 18 or 19 years old, they are well ed­u­cated on how to be­have, what to eat and if you have suc­cess, which way to go. And that’s a prob­lem here. It’s nat­u­ral, maybe be­cause they are from very dif­fer­ent back­grounds. For ex­am­ple, Them­binkosi Lorch is a fan­tas­tic tal­ent, but I think I was al­most his first real coach, with all due re­spect to his former coaches. You have to start at a dif­fer­ent level. When play­ers are 18 or 19 years old, you bring them in to the first team squad. But here you bring them in when they are 23, 24 or 25 and that is too late. We had tri­als for our Diski Chal­lenge team and the play­ers were 18 to 22 years old – that is too late. Play­ers in the MDC should be 16 to 19, and if they are a big tal­ent, then they should be in the first team.

The MDC is ba­si­cally our re­serve league, and the play­ers’ aver­age age is be­tween 20 and 23 …

I feel South Africa can do more at academy level – you need to work with them when they are a lit­tle bit younger. An­other prob­lem for me at Pi­rates was that I had 38 play­ers in the squad and that was im­pos­si­ble. Some­times we would play 11 ver­sus 11 and

there would be an­other 11 watch­ing on the side­lines. You can’t have it like that. Most clubs have 23 to 24 play­ers plus two to three young­sters — that’s the way to do it. That way, you can use three to four MDC play­ers ev­ery week. But if I al­ready have 38 play­ers, then it’s not pos­si­ble for me to bring in other young play­ers. We talked about it dur­ing my first meet­ing here. Pi­rates have an okay academy. They told me our job is not to de­velop and sell play­ers, we buy play­ers. For me that’s a lit­tle strange be­cause we can­not af­ford to do that in Europe. When I coached over­seas I had so many African play­ers … ten years ago I had three guys from Sene­gal and one of them is now at Stoke City in the EPL – he played at Hof­fen­heim in the Bun­desliga for a while. That’s the fun thing, to bring play­ers in when they are young. They are so thirsty to be de­vel­oped. You are not that hun­gry when you are 23 or 24, you have to take them in ear­lier.

FC Leipzig in the Bun­desliga won’t even sign a pro­fes­sional over the age of 23 be­cause the en­thu­si­asm at the younger age is greater than the age of 29 and 30 ...

Ja ab­so­lutely. But it’s also not easy be­cause some­times you can’t find play­ers who are 18 or 19.

What did you think of the stan­dard of the PSL ver­sus …

[Cuts in] It’s al­ways dif­fi­cult to say. I have been down here with Scan­di­na­vian teams on pre-sea­son and mid-sea­son breaks. We played Mamelodi Sundowns and Ajax Cape Town a few times and they were al­ways tough games. I know they prob­a­bly didn’t play the first team, but if I have to com­pare it with big Leagues in Europe, there is lots of tal­ent here.

What ar­eas of weak­nesses do you see in our foot­ball?

I spoke to Stu­art Bax­ter about this. You hear sto­ries that in Africa they are not well or­gan­ised. I re­mem­ber a Nige­rian player at my last club in Nor­way used to say, ‘Coach, we are not used to run­ning when we don’t have the ball. We run when we have the ball’. But I found that in the PSL that is not true. Stu­art said, ‘ They want to be or­gan­ised’. When you look at matches, there are lots of 0-0 draws be­cause of good de­fend­ing. PSL teams are well or­gan­ised de­fen­sively, bet­ter than I thought they would be. I thought that would be the prob­lem, but it wasn’t.

The joke is that the de­fence has be­come our strength, but we are not as creative as we used to be …

That was my think­ing when I got here, that we should try to sta­bilise Pi­rates’ de­fence a lit­tle bit. And it was sim­ple to get them to play nor­mal zonal de­fence, it was sim­ple to do that. Yet, after two to three weeks, we saw that it was not the de­fence that was the prob­lem. In­stead we found we needed bet­ter of­fen­sive play­ers. I also think the bet­ter of­fen­sive play­ers are the ones I worked with at home. I think the of­fen­sive play is a prob­lem as most clubs are bet­ter or­gan­ised de­fen­sively.

Is it the PSL coaches who are too de­fen­sive in South African foot­ball?

If you saw Bid­vest Wits last sea­son, they were re­ally good in de­fence. They didn’t win by more than a one-goal mar­gin, maybe more some­times. But when they were in the lead they were dif­fi­cult to beat be­cause they played

tight and were very dif­fi­cult to break down.

Same with Cape Town City and Su­per­Sport United un­der Stu­art Bax­ter. Even Sundowns were a counter-at­tack­ing team …

And those were not my thoughts when I ar­rived. I thought that play­ers were more like the African play­ers I worked with in Scan­di­navia, and that the PSL would be more at­tack­ing in style …

That’s the big­gest change we see in South African foot­ball. We were an of­fen­sive-minded na­tion with a weak­ness for de­fend­ing. It seems like we have over-com­pen­sated from a de­fen­sive point of view, which is un­der­stand­able be­cause there is so much pres­sure in the game on a coach to win and coaches are get­ting fired left, right and cen­tre …

That’s the im­por­tant thing. It’s im­por­tant that you do your work and if that is not in line with the club, it’s bet­ter to go. You can’t just work to save your job, then you will not do a good job. If you have an idea about how you want your team to play foot­ball, then go that way.

In South African foot­ball, a lot of coaches are coach­ing not to lose their jobs. You have teams try­ing to win on per­cent­age rather than go­ing all out to play pos­i­tive at­trac­tive foot­ball.

That’s also a prob­lem. If Pi­rates had been a lit­tle bit clearer about this and what they ex­pected from me, that could have been a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion for me at the club. Clubs back home have a man­ual on how the team should play. If you ac­cept it, you will be the coach and if you can’t do it, then you can’t coach that team. The clubs must be clear about what type of foot­ball they want. Is it im­por­tant to win or is it

“THEM­BINKOSI LORCH IS A FAN­TAS­TIC TAL­ENT, BUT I THINK I WAS AL­MOST HIS FIRST REAL COACH.”

im­por­tant for the sup­port­ers to love to watch the way the team plays? All clubs can’t win the league, but you can play some fun foot­ball and of­ten that is enough for sup­port­ers.

That is a weak­ness of South African foot­ball be­cause only one team can win the league, but cer­tainly the ma­jor­ity can play at­trac­tive and pos­i­tive foot­ball.

Yes, and there are good foot­ballers in the PSL. I have seen many fan­tas­tic foot­ball matches since I ar­rived in this coun­try. Now with the na­tional team, they had a good start. That is also im­por­tant be­cause you have to have the na­tional team do­ing well.

The prob­lem is our big­gest as­set is our big­gest weak­ness in the PSL. There is so much money in the game that it ac­tu­ally stops the progress of play­ers go­ing over­seas to bet­ter them­selves, but that is life. From the or­gan­i­sa­tional point of view, how did you find South African foot­ball, both on and off the field?

It’s very dif­fer­ent from club to club. At Or­lando Pi­rates, they don’t miss any­thing, they are very good. The only prob­lem was we didn’t train at the same place so I never saw the young­sters. I never saw them and never talked to them and that was a weak­ness. If you have a train­ing ground that is two to three pitches close to each other, you could be more like a fam­ily.

What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween sup­port­ers in Swe­den and South Africa?

In Stock­holm, there are more fights. Peo­ple here go to foot­ball matches and do all the singing, and do it to for­get some­thing. For a few hours, they don’t have to think about prob­lems at home and that is the dif­fer­ence. In Swe­den peo­ple are okay, they have jobs and houses and go to foot­ball for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

ABOVE: Jonevret and his Pi­rates charges dur­ing a Pi­rates me­dia day at FNB Sta­dium in June. BE­LOW: Jonevret leaves the pitch after Pi­rates’ 1-0 Ned­bank Cup semi-fi­nal vic­tory over Golden Ar­rows in May.

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