The love and inspirational words keeps the coach going.
RHULANI Mokwena’s love for Orlando Pirates and the inspirational words he received from Asavela Mbekile keeps the coach going during these trying times for himself and the club.
Mokwena (pictured) was tasked with steadying the ship following coach Micho Sredojevic’s abrupt resignation, but instead he hit an iceberg. It will take something special to get out of this predicament, and while he tries to do so Mokwena has faced stinging criticism which has led to some doubting his competency to manage a team of Pirates’ stature.
On Tuesday he slept a bit better than most nights after the club ended a three-match winless run in the league by beating Highlands Park 1-0 at Makhulong Stadium. The fact that the goal was off-side didn’t matter to Mokwena and the Ghost, what mattered was getting maximum points in a tough place to visit.
The win couldn’t have come at a more opportune time as Pirates’ next encounter is a Soweto Derby against their arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs in the Telkom Knockout quarter-finals on Saturday at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“It’s my love for the club (that fuels me),” Mokwena said. “Before I am the coach of Orlando Pirates, I am a fan of Orlando Pirates. I love this club. When you serve a greater cause, greater than yourself, you get more energy to keep going.
“The support of the players is also what’s keeping me going, along with the rest of the technical team. I am not alone in this situation. Like I said, it is amazing when a player like Asavela Mbekile, who hasn’t featured much this season, can have the wisdom and the humility to come to the coach and say keep going, we are right behind you and whatever it is that this period is preparing you for, and these were his words, this is period is preparing you for something big.
“That gave me another spring in my step. I was very, very humbled by Asavela’s words.”
Mbekile has only played 94 minutes of football this season. He wasn’t in the matchday 18 for the club’s last five Absa Premiership matches. Despite that, he still encouraged Mokwena.
“Mbekile said to me Monday at training, ‘Coach, whatever this is preparing you for, is something huge. You are being prepared for something huge’. That was Asavela, he came to me out of nowhere and he said, ‘Continue working hard and we support you’.”
The Soweto Derby is vital for both teams as they have gone a long time without a trophy. Pirates were last champions in 2014 while Chiefs last lifted a cup in 2015. Chiefs go into this match with the most momentum as they are top of the standings, but the Sea Robbers have dominated this fixture recently.
“The most important thing for us is for a little bit of confidence to return,” Mokwena said. “Good results breed a little bit of confidence. It’s just about being a little bit more consistent, that’s what we are going to speak about.
“We won before against Chippa (United), and then the wheels came off slightly. We just need to say to the team that we need to be a little more consistent and that’s what we will work towards.”