Sab­o­tage can undo a coach

A re­volt in the dress­ing room could lead to play­ers de­lib­er­ately throw­ing games to pun­ish the gaffer

Mail & Guardian - - Sport & Games - Siyabonga Ng­cangisa

In­creas­ingly in mod­ern foot­ball, own­ing the “dress­ing room” is one of the key el­e­ments in de­ter­min­ing how long a coach can sur­vive in a club — other than good re­sults, that is. Ir­re­spec­tive of a coach’s pedi­gree, his re­la­tion­ship with the play­ers is equally cru­cial and it is whis­pered that in­flu­en­tial foot­ballers have some­times had a hand in en­sur­ing poor re­sults that have even­tu­ally led to a coach’s demise.

When Kaizer Chiefs, for the first time in his­tory, lost a top eight spot on the log ta­ble in the 2002-2003 sea­son, coach Muhsin Er­tu­gral lost his job. Later, a for­mer player told the Mail & Guardian that the club’s poor run that year was be­cause of sab­o­tage.

“We were the ones who sab­o­taged Er­tu­gral. Many play­ers didn’t like him be­cause he shouted a lot. To me he was just a typ­i­cal Euro­pean coach. They are like that. They are pas­sion­ate. I un­der­stood him,” said the player.

The spot­light was again on the dress­ing room when Su­per­sport United sacked coach Eric Tin­kler to­wards the end of last sea­son.

Tin­kler re­cently raised eye­brows when he sub­sti­tuted vet­eran mid­fielder and cap­tain Mark Mayam­bela for what he termed ill-dis­ci­pline dur­ing Chippa United’s 1-0 loss to Or­lando Pi­rates in a Telkom Knock­out game on Oc­to­ber 20.

De­fend­ing Mayam­bela’s un­timely first-half sub­sti­tu­tion dur­ing a post­match in­ter­view, Tin­kler in­sisted the change was nec­es­sary for dis­ci­plinary rea­sons and also hinted at a pos­si­ble hear­ing.

This fol­lowed an in­ci­dent dur­ing the game when Mayam­bela was caught out of po­si­tion and Tin­kler rep­ri­manded him from the side­lines. Mayam­bela re­port­edly then backchat­ted the coach.

Tin­kler, a for­mer Bafana Bafana mid­fielder, says he still stands by his de­ci­sion and says Mayam­bela, as a club cap­tain, should have known bet­ter. “As a cap­tain, you lead by ex­am­ple and [should] al­ways be pro­fes­sional. He has apol­o­gised to all of us, in­clud­ing his team-mates and the tech­ni­cal team, and the re­la­tion­ship is good. There are a lot of emo­tions in­volved in a game of foot­ball but it’s also im­por­tant to know that, as a cap­tain, you are also a leader.”

The for­mer Cape Town City coach also re­futed claims that he had strained re­la­tions with some play­ers at Su­per­sport.

“I had good re­la­tions with the play­ers at Su­per­port,” Tin­kler says. “I com­mand re­spect ev­ery­where I go.”

For­mer Bafana Bafana coach Gor­don Ige­sund says it is im­por­tant for coaches to have great re­la­tion­ships with play­ers — but not at the ex­pense of re­spect.

“I have al­ways had a fan­tas­tic re­la­tion­ship with play­ers in the clubs I have coached. But you also need to be firm and hon­est and ex­pect hard work from the play­ers. Re­spect the play­ers. They must know you are there for them but they must also know who’s in charge,” says Ige­sund, the only coach in the do­mes­tic league to have won four league tro­phies with four dif­fer­ent clubs.

He also says in­con­sis­tency in deal­ing with dis­ci­pline is­sues can di­vide the play­ers and that can lead to sab­o­tage.

“For in­stance, if a player comes late to train­ing and you fine him R2 000, do the same thing to an­other player who com­mits the same of­fence. In that way, play­ers will know that, even though you are firm, you are also fair,” he says.

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