Pitso taught a lesson
PITSO Mosimane's two reigns in charge of Bafana Bafana had some notable highs, but also some memorable lows. His first stint at the helm was in a caretaker capacity while the country waited for the Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira to arrive.
It included seven matches between May and November of 2006. One of those was a 2008 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away in Zambia that yielded a 1-0 success against a very useful Chipolopolo side not used to being turned over on their own ground.
Aaron Mokoena netted that day, his only goal in 107 internationals, and it was a performance of true grit that would become the hallmark of Mosimane sides later on.
His second spell started directly after the departure of Parreira, following the 2010 Fifa World Cup, when he took over a side that had been together for seven months with all the pre- World Cup camps, but were battling to come to terms with their first-round exit. A win over a depleted Ghana side in his first game in charge was a big morale-booster, his talisman Katlego Mphela getting the only goal of the game.
A 2-0 home victory over Niger and a 0-0 away draw in Sierra Leone gave the side a fine start to their 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign, but perhaps his crowning moment as coach came in March last year, when a late Mphela goal gave the side a 1-0 win over Egypt.
The Pharaohs were not the force of old, but still a major power in the African game and that triumph should, even halfway through the qualifiers, have sealed a place in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
At that stage nobody was in any doubt that Mosimane had been the right selection to follow Parreira, a view only enhanced by an excellent 0-0 draw in Cairo in the return qualifier that saw the side take another step closer to qualification. But as the pressure on him grew, the wheels came off.
Two defensive errors led to a defeat in Niger and suddenly the side were left needing a win over Sierra Leone to book their place at the Nations Cup. Only Mosimane and his technical team believed a draw would suffice.
The scenes of disgraceful play-acting from goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune as he tried to wind down the clock for a 0-0 draw, and then dancing after the final whistle as the players believed they had qualified, made the country the laughing stock across the footballing world.
It was a deflating moment for fans, and arguably left Mosimane a dead man walking, with the next competitive disappointment to seal his fate. The justifiable criticism he received after the game also left his relationship with the media strained.
The length of time it took him to apologise left many fans wondering whether he was sincere. His now infamous rant at the press during a training camp in Rustenburg in January, where he claimed they were already writing his obituary, did not help his cause, but he was also right.
His attack on the quality of the Premier Soccer League and South African players in general will have alienated him from some of his stars and possibly left his position untenable.
But it was his utterance of "what can I do?" in relation to South Africa's goal-scoring woes that was arguably the final nail in the coffin. It was an admission, even if unintended, that he could take this side no further.
When the South African public were looking to the coach for answers after a run of results that had seen them without a win in seven games, he could provide none. And that has perhaps been Mosimane's great failure in charge of Bafana.
There is no doubt that he has a fine footballing brain and is a very good coach, but he failed to handle the "human" side of the game - dealing with his players and the media.
His public profile did him no favours, coming across as aloof and making embarrassing admissions about his players, their lack of ability and even their personalities. Publicly stating how Bongani Khumalo will "cry in his room, and say the coach is not happy with him" does nothing to foster relationships or galvanise players in their support of the coach.
That is part of his make-up he can work on and that must be his solace - to take away from his Bafana experience the learnings that have come through hardship and use them later in what could well still turn out be a highly successful coaching career.