Mark Keohane, writing for Keo’s Corner in the Cape Times and IOL
Pitso Mosimane’s African giants Al Ahly lost to European champions Bayern Munich earlier this week in the semi-finals of the Fifa Club World Cup in Qatar. It was Mosimane’s first defeat with Ahly, having won 18 and drawn four of his previous 22 matches.
Mosimane was disappointed his team had lost. He was annoyed to have lost his first match since joining Ahly six months ago after unprecedented coaching success with Mamelodi Sundowns.
Mosimane spoke with respect about Bayern and acknowledged the quality of the best club team in the world. But it didn’t mean he at any stage hailed a two-nil defeat as a moral victory or a victory of any sorts.
Mosimane, at the final whistle, said he was a loser and felt like a loser. So did his players. It is not a feeling they enjoy and certainly not one they are used to.
Mosimane wanted more from his team and he wanted more from the match.
His mentality continues to be: if the aspiration is not to be number one and be the best, then where is the inspiration going to come from?
What surprised me was how many on social media applauded Mosimane and Ahly for ‘respectability’ in defeat. Equally, how many said they were ‘proud to be South African, to be African and to be black’ and it showed the ‘ability and potential of African football and a South African coach’.
The many who posted sentiments consistent with what you have just read meant it as a compliment to the coach and his players, but I know he would have taken it as an insult because the interpretation is easily that second best is good enough, if you are from South Africa or Africa … or that second best is to be applauded if you are black.
It conveys a message of inferiority, based on colour, country and continent.
Mosimane, when I think football, isn’t black or South African. He is just a bloody good manager, who sooner rather than later is hopefully seduced by the challenge of taking Bafana Bafana to the World Cup.
Mosimane is a manager with proven pedigree and his skill set will bring success wherever and whoever he manages on the planet.
The narrative is endless of so many South Africans applauding any near miss involving a South African on the international stage as a good news story because ‘you’ve shown you can compete with the world’s best’.
The question South Africans, with humility and confidence, should be asking is if anything foreign, which is considered the global standard bearer, can compete with the best from South Africa?
The Springboks, at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, showed it was South Africa first. Graeme Smith’s magnificent cricketers for a lengthy period dominated international cricket. AB de Villiers, Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn were considered the best in the world at the peak of their careers. Kagiso Rabada only 18 months ago was ranked the best bowler in the world.
Elon Musk, South African born and schooled, is the wealthiest individual on the planet.
South Africans have always proven inspirational in their achievements and what has changed post democracy in 1994, is that opportunities have opened up internationally for all South Africans to showcase these talents.
Those who have succeeded, do so because of their individual talent and when it is in a team environment, they do so because of the collective strength when those amazing individuals combine.
They don’t do so because they are South African or African. They do so because they are the best.
And when they don’t succeed in the moment, they shouldn’t be further insulted with the platitude that second is good enough because the rest of the world may look down on us as a country or continent.
To the contrary, the rest of the world will always look up to us because of Nelson Mandela and it is why we should never accept coming second as a victory.