Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane (AFP)
Egypt's Ahly announced the departure of Swiss coach Rene Weiler on Thursday, naming South African Pitso Mosimane as his successor in a surprise shift from their traditional habit of bringing in European managers.
"Mosimane signed a two-season contract starting on 2 October, 2020," the club said in a statement, adding that he would be joined by another South African assistant and a performance analyst.
"Assistant coach Sami Komsan and Belgian goalkeeping coach Michel Iannacone will stay in their posts while Sayed Abdel-Hafiz will continue as the team's football director.
"The club's management terminated the deal with Swiss coach Rene Weiler in accordance the clauses in his contract, due to the difficulties of meeting his demands that weren't included in his contract with the team.
"The club's management found that Weiler's demands are inconsistent with the team's interests and stability during this important time."
Recent reports said Weiler had asked for some time off to discuss his future with his family in Switzerland.
Weiler, who led Ahly to their fifth consecutive Egyptian Premier League title last month and helped them reach the last four of the African Champions League, turned down the club's offer to stay put until they conclude their continental campaign.
Reports said he sought to invoke a clause in his new one-year deal that allows him to leave for free in the first 10 days of October.
Just like what happened with Cairo rivals Zamalek, whose French boss Patrice Carteron abruptly left to take charge of a Saudi club, Ahly found themselves in a delicate situation; they needed to act quickly to rescue their Champions League campaign.
But while Zamalek played it safe by bringing in Portuguese coach Jaime Pacheco, who returned to the club for a second spell, Ahly took what some pundits describe as a gamble by hiring Mosimane.
The Red Devils' rich history is built around European managers, including iconic Portuguese manager Manuel Jose, who led them to a host of domestic and continental titles over three spells. And on the few occasions when the team sought a change, they turned to Egyptian coaches.
However, Mosimane's African expertise, coupled with a charming persona and tendency to play mind games to take pressure off the shoulders of his players, could appeal to Ahly's demanding supporters.
He is famous for masterminding Ahly's worst ever defeat in an African competition, his Mamelodi Sundowns side crushing their illustrious opponents 5-0 in a one-sided Champions League quarter-final clash last year.
Ahly took revenge this season, eliminating Sundowns with a 3-1 aggregate victory in the quarter-finals. Before the first leg started, Mosimane toured the pitch while taking videos of a sell-out crowd with his cell phone, making no attempt to hide his admiration of the passionate support the team usually get at their Cairo fortress.
The 56-year-old has a proven track record in African football. In eight years with Sundowns, he won the South African Premier League five times and the Champions League once when his side defeated Zamalek 3-1 on aggregate in the 2016 final.
"While I had four years remaining in my contract, this offer is a huge opportunity for me that would not have come had I not had the privilege to be part of the team that led Mamelodi Sundowns in winning the Champions League and reaching the Club World Cup finals," Mosimane said in a statement.
Mosimane's immediate task is crystal clear -- delivering Ahly's first Champions League title since they won the last of their record eight crowns in 2013. They face Morocco's Wydad in a mouthwatering two-legged semifinal later this month.
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