A completely new chapter

Marawan Zayed, Tuesday 6 Oct 2020

For the first time in their illustrious history, Ahly will be coached by a native African


So the rumours that have been circulating for some time now turned out to be true. Rene Weiler has officially left Ahly. The Swiss coach was growing increasingly agitated by living in Egypt away from his family because of the coronavirus and made his feelings known to the club’s board in recent weeks until he officially left his post last week.

Club President Mahmoud Al-Khatib’s board moved quickly and announced last week Thursday that they had reached an agreement with South African manager Pitso Mosimane to take over as the first team head coach for the next two years. Mosimane is considered one of the best coaches in the continent with massive experience in the CAF Champions League, having led his former club Mamelodi Sundowns to the title in 2016. The experience will come in handy as Ahly are into the semi-finals of Africa’s most famous football club tournament.

“Mosimane’s staff includes an assistant coach, fitness coach and performance analyst in addition to assistant coach Sami Komsan, goalkeeper coach Michel Lannacone and director of football Sayed Abdel-Hafiz who kept their positions in the coaching staff,” a club statement said.

Mosimane’s Sundowns were knocked out of the CAF Champions League this season by Ahly themselves in the quarter-finals. The South African coach has been managing teams only in Africa since he started his managerial career in 2001. His started as an assistant coach in the South African team Supersport United before he became their head coach from 2001 to 2007, finishing second in 2001–02 and 2002–03 in the South African Premier Soccer League.

After that he served as a care-taker coach of the South African national team for seven games in 2007, prior to the appointment of Brazil’s World Cup-winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira as head coach of the national team, whom Mosimane served as an assistant coach during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

He also kept his position as assistant to Joel Santana, during the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, Parreira’s successor. On 15 July 2010, Mosimane was named as the new head coach of South Africa and was handed a four-year contract. He won his first game in charge in a 1–0 win over World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana. South Africa failed to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations after Mosimane misguidedly played for a famous draw in the final qualifier against Sierra Leone, when in fact a victory was required.

Mosimane, 56, then left his position to take over at Sundowns in 2012. His biggest achievement with the club was winning the Champions League in 2016, defeating Egyptian giants Zamalek 3-1 on aggregate to make his club only the second South African team ever to win the prestigious trophy.

Winning the Champions League saw Mosimane ranked as the 10th best coach in the world in 2016 according to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics. On 5 January 2017, Mosimane won Coach of the Year award at the 2016 Glo-CAF awards in Abuja, Nigeria, after guiding Mamelodi Sundowns to league glory in 2015–16 and claiming the Telkom Knockout trophy which meant Mosimane became the only coach to win a clean sweep of all domestic trophies in the history of South Africa.

Mosimane’s arguably most famous win in his managerial career came on 6 April 2019 when he recorded a 5-0 win over Ahly in the 2018–19 CAF Champions League quarter-finals, Ahly’s worst ever defeat in an African competition. The huge win only enhanced his reputation as one of the best coaches on the continent.

Generally speaking, Mosimane is regarded as the most successful manager in South African football history, winning five Premiership titles with Mamelodi Sundowns in addition to the Champions League in 2016. And after eight years in charge of Sundowns, fan favourite Mosimane resigned from his position to manage Ahly, “the best team in the history of the continent”, according to the man himself. The African football association CAF did confer on Ahly, a 113-year-old club, the title of the continent’s best football team of the 20th century.

Ahly vs Arab Contractors
Ahly vs Arab Contractors

Furthermore, Mosimane is the first ever non-Egyptian African to manage Ahly to kick start a new era at the club which intends to count more on African experience to compete for the Champions League, a tournament Ahly have won a record eight times but have not captured since 2013, losing two successive finals in 2017 and 2018. The club has traditionally favoured European coaches.

The appointment of Mosimane was praised by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa. “Pitso Mosimane will be missed as a force in South African football but his appointment by our continent’s flagship club strengthens the bonds of friendship between our two countries,” Ramaphosa said. “It is also a recognition of the talent and capability that resides within our own continent. I wish Pitso and his team well as they fly our flag and the flag of continental football with a club in whose success all Africans take pride.”

Mosimane’s first game in charge of Ahly came only four days after his appointment, against the Arab Contractors in a league game and ended in a 1-0 win for Mosimane’s men. The only goal of the game arrived in the 40th minute through Amr Al-Solia from the penalty spot to ensure the South African coach starts his job on a positive note.

Despite the win, Mosimane wasn’t very happy after the game after losing key player and captain of the team goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Shinnawi to injury. The team will play two league games before taking on Al-Wydad of Morocco in the semis of the Champions League later this month. Mosimane made it clear after the game that he’ll use these two games to raise the physical fitness of some players and as preparation warm-ups for the all-important game against the Moroccan side.

Mosimane inherits a club that recently won the league title, their 42nd in history and fifth in a row.

Weiler, who stayed exactly one year with Ahly, also led the Red Devils to the 2019 Egypt Super Cup.

Mosimane’s hiring comes on the heels of another coaching change, this one in crosstown rivals Zamalek. Zamalek reached an agreement with Portuguese manager Jaime Pacheco for a second coaching spell at the club, replacing Frenchman Patrice Carteron who resigned last month to take over Al-Taawon in Saudi Arabia.

Zamalek, too, are in the Champions League semi-finals against Raja of Morocco this month.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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