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OPINION: Why Coach Rhulani Mokwena Deserves Much More Respect Than Actually Given

Opinion: Opinion: An Embarrassment of Riches

Our football analyst, Jesse Nagel gives his opinion on the drama that unfolded at Loftus Versfeld during the match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates.

It was a clash between two South African heavyweights when Mamelodi Sundowns held Orlando Pirates to a goalless draw this past weekend, but sadly, that wasn’t the only clash that happened at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, with a Masandawana supporter jumping over the barricaded fence to attack Bucs’ assistant coach, Rhulani Mokwena.

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For starters, how did he get there? Why wasn’t he stopped before reaching the dugout? Has security not learnt their lesson from the Moses Mabhida incident? These are questions that need to be posed upon the Premier Soccer League. What if a weapon was snuck into the stadium and that supporter had planned to seriously hurt Mokwena?

Is coach Rhulani to blame for that supporters’ outrage? Of course not! For weeks, perhaps months, Mokwena has been making headlines across the country, with fans questioning whether he is more than Pirates’ assistant coach, and instead, the man behind the current success of Orlando Pirates.

He certainly has a huge part to play in all of that, and perhaps former Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder, Bongani Zungu, who worked with Mokwena during his time in Chloorkop, took it a tad bit too far. The 26-year-old, now plying his trade in France for Amiens, came out on Twitter and praised Mokwena for the current success at Pirates, also mentioning that it was, in fact, coach Rhulani who was behind Sundowns’ success as well during Zungu’s time at the club.

‘Ben 10’ has since apologized for his comments, but it seems Zungu has held himself accountable for the Sundowns fan attacking Mokwena on the touchline. In a message shared personally by Rhulani Mokwena, Zungu said: “I just saw videos of what happened today [Saturday]. I’m very sorry. It’s all my fault, now people are fighting [with] you. I am the one they should be fighting [with]. Not you. I’m so sorry, coach, I feel really bad.”

Like Mokwena, Zungu shouldn’t blame himself for what happened. That was down to one individual’s stupidity. Nobody can be blamed for that.

In fact, all this time, Mokwena making headlines across Mzansi had nothing to do with what he said, it was because of what people have said about him. Prior to the first Soweto Derby of the season, Mokwena gave his first press-conference, and not once did he praise himself or discredit coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic’s work. Talk regarding whether he is head coach of Orlando Pirates is simply speculation created by opposing fans. Coach Rhulani has done nothing to provoke an act of violence. Since when has supposed mind games been a valid reason to physically attack a coach?

Hands off Rhulani Mokwena. This is not what ‘the beautiful game’ is about. If anything, coach Mokwena has revived the spark in South African football, and also help reignite the rivalry within our football. The fact that so many people are against Mokwena shows that what he is doing is definitely working, because the faithful Orlando Pirates fans adore him, the neutrals do too. Perhaps the FIFA break came at the best possible time for the situation to die down a bit before another humdinger tie is upon us when Bucs face Kaizer Chiefs in the semi-final of the Telkom Knockout Cup.

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