The Mpote conundrum

Mpote has started well PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Mpote has started well PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE

Mogomotsi ‘Teenage’ Mpote was seen as a journeyman when he was handed the Zebras’ job on an interim basis. But the Orapa United coach has done more than just that, throwing spanners into the BFA’s search for a new man. Should he or should he not be, that’s the sticky question that can’t leave the BFA right now, writes Mmegi Sport Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE

History-making coach, Stan Tshosane was not the fan favourite when he was appointed in 2008. There was still the sweet aftertaste left by the hugely popular Jelusic Veselin, for Tshosane to contend with.

His first days in charge failed to ignite excitement until the day he beat giants, Tunisia in their own backyard.

The supporters’ clubs, which had been dormant for years, sprung up, and were part of the team’s journey all the way to the first ever Africa Cup of Nations qualification in 2012.

Tshosane was transformed into a cult hero, rising from a rather obscure domestic coach to a mentor respected outside the borders.

Mpote shares a lot in common with Tshosane. He is a local coach who is not seen as the quintessential professional to drag the team out of its perennial woes.

His appointment in March was not met with a lot of optimism, particularly coming soon after the team’s dismal run under David Bright. The BFA had already made its intentions known, closing out local applicants or, putting out an advert, which was out of reach for local coaches.

The association’s eyes were fixed on a foreign coach, and the recruitment process has reached the last stage.

While the BFA is setting the table for a foreign coach, Mpote, on the one hand, is preparing to gatecrash the party. The Orapa United mentor has made a strong case, which might ultimately prove difficult to ignore for the mother body.

This week, BFA president, Maclean Letshwiti did not offer a commitment on whether they will re-think their recruitment process in view of Mpote’s good run.

The BFA’s initial plan was to hire a foreign coach, and retain Mpote as an assistant.

But with Mpote having proven himself in the few games in charge, making him an assistant might be the perfect ingredient for problems within the Zebras technical bench.

Mpote has been down this road before at Township Rollers and his current club, Orapa United.

At Rollers, Mpote did not see eye-to-eye with Serbian, Nikola Kavazovic, with the two fighting for the control of the Rollers top seat. Mpote had tasted victory in the previous season, leading Township Rollers to a league triumph, but was relegated to assistant in the next season.

Mpote was shipped out, and he joined Orapa United, where a similar arrangement was in place. He deputised Zimbabwean, Bongani Mafu and soon reports of bad blood emerged.

Mafu was eventually shown the door to leave Mpote in charge. After sitting at the Zebras high table, Mpote will be reluctant to cede, no matter the profile of the guest arriving to take his seat. Or Mpote might accept the demotion, but as history has proven, life will not be rosy for the new man. Mpote has every reason to believe he is equally capable, after his four straight victories since he took charge in March.

The dilemma facing BFA is that if they ignore Mpote’s exploits, and hire a foreign coach, there is a possible public backlash, particularly if the preferred candidate flops.

For now, Mpote has thrown the ball in the BFA’s court, with the gentle words, ‘over to you’, a message that might prove too difficult to ignore.

The BFA will not lose much, if it sticks with Mpote, and also the bar has not been set too high in the past. The Zebras have been to the AFCON finals only once, and as the saying goes, ‘a miss is as good as a mile’.  There is only one coach who has qualified for the AFCON finals, Tshosane, and not much has been extracted from the rest.

If the Mpote ‘experiment’ fails, the BFA can still go back to its initial plan, and will not have lost a great deal of money, assuming the foreign coach will demand a heftier package. Football analyst, Comfort ‘Big Fish’ Ramatebele believes the Mpote decision does not necessarily hinge on his performance, but on the realignment of the football structures.

“It is hard to speak of the technical department as the reason for any outcome regarding the national team. Whether we retain Teenage or otherwise, it’s neither here nor there,” Ramatebele said.

“We need an honest review of the entire governance and administration of the national team. The problem is never with the coach or the BFA. The structure needs revitalisation.”

He admitted that for now, Mpote has made a solid case.

“For now, albeit in a miniature tournament, he has built a case. If we shape our structure a bit, he is the right man for he post and backed by current results and experience in local football,” Ramatebele added.

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