Another of South African football’s legendary coaches has passed away

16 August 2017 - 11:41 By Mark Gleeson
Former Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates coach Mario Tuane. File photo
Former Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates coach Mario Tuane. File photo
Image: Sowetan

The reported death of Mario Tuane‚ just weeks after his 90th birthday in his apartment in Vina del Mar on Chile’s Pacific coast‚ means another of South African football’s legendary coaches has passed on‚ not long after one of his many successors Jeff Butler.

‘The Godfather’ coached in South Africa for some 30 years but his surname was always incorrectly spelled as Tuani.

He was born Mario Jorge Tuane Escaff in Santiago‚ Chile in 1927.

He held the unique distinction of coaching Kaizer Chiefs‚ Mamelodi Sundowns‚ Moroka Swallows and Orlando Pirates.

But despite the reverence with which the soccer press of the day treated him‚ his record showed just two league titles – first in 1979 with Chiefs and then more than a decade later in 1988 when he finished the campaign in charge of Mamelodi Sundowns after Stanley ‘Screamer’ Tshabalala had been fired midway through the season.

Tuane won the Mainstay Cup (now the Nedbank Cup) with Chiefs in 1979 and Swallows in 1983.

He came to South Africa in the 1960s‚ claiming to have coached Doza to the Greek league but a simple check of the records reveals Doza never won the championship in Greece.

By his own admission‚ Tuane had stumbled into football inadvertently after moving from Chile to Greece after the Second World War.

His wife was Greek and it was there that he first coached before moving to South Africa and the whites-only National Football League.

The part-time nature of top flight soccer in those days meant coaches could straddle the black and white leagues across the Apartheid divide‚ holding down two posts at the same time.

It was through his early association with the National Professional Soccer League that he was named coach of the SA Black XI that played in the SA Games in 1973 and 1974.

Tuane coached Benoni United‚ then Swallows‚ but when the Birds beat Chiefs in the final of the BP Top 16 in late 1975‚ he was missing from the bench because he had gone on holiday and he was fired soon thereafter‚ only to be rehired within two months.

In mid-1977 he took over from Alex Forbes as coach of Pirates midway through the season and stayed for 18 months‚ to be replaced by Tshabalala.

Chiefs hired him for the 1979 season and he achieved the league and cup double with them.

They beat Highlands Park in a replay after the cup final ended 3-3 and then finished the season‚ just days before Christmas‚ by hammering Durban City 4-1‚ with a hat-trick from Teenage Dladla‚ to take the title.

Tuane then got the opportunity of a lifetime to coach Penarol of Uruguay‚ taking Chiefs striker Shaka Ngcobo with him‚ but stayed just a matter of months.

Penarol used five coachers that season!

Tuane went to coach Palestino in Chiloe after that but also had but a brief stay

He was back in South Africa in 1983 with Swallows and stayed for just over a year‚ bringing with him Chilean players Raul Gonzalez‚ Eddie Compodonico and Mario Varas.

It was this move that made his name in his home country‚ where he was a virtual unknown‚ because years later it was Tuane who recommended Raul’s son Mark (born in Durban) to Chilean clubs.

Mark Gonzalez went on to win over 50 caps for Chile and played for Liverpool in England and Real Sociedad and Real Betis in Spain.

In 1984‚ Tuane coached Swallows twice in one season with a brief stint at AmaZulu in between.

In 1988‚ he was back to coach Coloured Passmore’s Giant Blackpool team but when Sundowns players revolted against Tshabalala‚ Tuane took over to successfully finish the campaign.

Sundowns were already top of the log and almost into the final third of the season when Tuane took over.

He did not want to lose his Blackpool income‚ however‚ and so left his assistant Angelo Tschilas in charge of the other team.

That is how the Tschilas family became involved with Sundowns.

Tuane also coached at Vaal Professionals and his last job was at African Wanderers in 1999‚ with Raul Gonzalez as his assistant‚ when he was already 71-years-old.

- TimesLIVE