COMMENT: Having failed in Africa this season, questions have been raised as to whether Jose Riveiro understood the expectations that come with coaching Orlando Pirates, writes soccer writer Mihlali Baleka.
IS THE honeymoon over? Or was this one of the setbacks that Orlando Pirates had to endure so they could bounce back stronger?
These are some of the questions that Pirates fans will be asking themselves after Friday’s shock result.
Pirates crashed out of the Caf Champions League at Orlando Stadium after losing 5-4 on penalties to Jwaneng Galaxy, the two-leg second round of the preliminary qualifiers having ended 1-1.
It was a disappointing result that extended Pirates’ winless run to four matches in a row. But while Pirates could be forgiven for the first three losses as they didn’t cause much damage – given that they progressed to the MTN8 final – this recent defeat is catastrophic.
The 1995 African champions are regarded as the one of powerhouses of the continent and are therefore expected to play in the Champions League’s group stage season-in and season-out.
This is not only the competition that sees the continent’s best footballing teams battle for coveted bragging rights but there are 4 million reasons to win the crown.
A cash prize of $4 million (about R75m) awaits the champions – a staggering cheque that would go a long way for Pirates as it’s equivalent to that of the newly formed African Football League that they’ll miss out on.
So, having failed this season, it raises questions as to whether head coach Jose Riveiro understood the expectations that comes with coaching Pirates.
Riveiro, though, was bold enough to give an honest assessment of Bucs’ shortcomings.
“A difficult night. It’s not acceptable, this team is built and prepared to go to the Champions League group stage,” Riveiro said after the match.
“So, we can’t accept this result and say, ‘we’re unlucky’. Nobody feels proud of the result. We must accept it, analyse it and take responsibility for the defeat.
“The coach more than anybody else and we need to do a proper reflection about our participation in this competition because obviously it wasn’t good enough.”
Kudos to Riveiro for shouldering the blame, perhaps that shows that he’s still the right man for the job and needed the wake-up call to make Pirates great on the continent once again.
But he’ll also know that he has to act fast to restore the trust the supporters had in his team.
And there’d be no better time for Pirates to bounce back to winning ways than in the MTN8 final against Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday in Durban.
Pirates face a side on a high after having cruised to their ninth successive Champions League group stage after beating Bumamuru of Burundi 6-0 on aggregate this past weekend.
That’s not all. Sundowns are also unbeaten in 32 league matches, while their only blemish in 13 games this season has been one draw – in the MTN8.
And that’s why Pirates’ result from the MTN8 final might answer a lot of questions about their dip in form, including whether the team is still under the right stewardship.