How Pitso Mosimane masterminded his fourth PSL title
The last five Absa Premiership games that Mamelodi Sundowns won on the trot separated Sundowns from their main rivals as they romped to a fourth league title in six seasons under wily mentor Pitso Mosimane.
The Brazilians marched to a record ninth title overall in the Premier Soccer League era with victories away to Baroka FC (1-2), home to Chippa United (3-2), away to Black Leopards (1-2), home to Golden Arrows (2-0) and away to Free State Stars (0-1).
Mosimane has won four titles in just over five years at Chloorkop and joins an exclusive club of celebrated coaches: Jeff Butler, Gordon Igesund, Ted Dumitru and Gavin Hunt, who have achieved the same feat.
Mosimane told the Sunday Times this week that there was no way they could have pipped Orlando Pirates to the title had they slipped in one of those five games.
Going to those last five games, Sundowns' form in the league was way out of tune. They had lost at home against their Tshwane neighbours SuperSport United (2-0) and drew 0-0 away to Leopards as the Caf Champions League campaign, and all the awkward travelling it comes with, took its toll on Mosimane and his players.
In those last five matches the noise of the Wayne Arendse saga grew louder. Everyone was speculating about the number of points Sundowns actually had and Mosimane was the loudest in questioning the PSL's delay.
"Winning the last five matches was one of the key things we did to win the league," said Mosimane. We won where it mattered most. We've got five blocks of five matches and all the time when you win, you have to win four out of five.
"So we won five out of five in the last block. We had to win five out of five, there's no other way or you lose the league title. You have to."
Mosimane said the discussion on winning those games involved all his players and the team's diverse technical team which consists of 16 people.
"I said to the guys let's look at the names. No disrespect, let's look at the names. We said Free State, can we win in Free State? We've never drawn there, we win.
"I said Arrows, we have beaten Arrows last year. I said, Baroka. Can we win in Baroka? I said we can.
"And I said Leopards ... we can win at Leopards because Leopards is a happy team. On their day, Leopards will beat you. Happy... happy.
"There's that guy who plays in the midfield, eh ... No 10, Karabo Tshepe. He wants to dribble, so they are happy to play with that.
"We won three on the road in those matches because on the road we are strong. So that's one of the secrets.
"The other one was we scored first. When Sundowns have scored first, forget it. We know how to hang in there because of our experience in the Champions League. That helped us and our defence was good."
But amid all that organisation of the team, there was the Arendse matter that the PSL has not completely sorted out until this day as they appealed against their Disciplinary Committee verdict.Sundowns and Arendse were fined R250,000 each, with half suspended, for the club having fielded the player in a 1-1 Premiership draw against Wits at Loftus Versfeld in October, when he had not been named in the original match squad of 18.ARENDSE SAGAMosimane said he deliberately took a central role in asking questions about the Arendse saga."I kept that matter away from the players," said Mosimane. "I took all the bullets. I had to protect the players. I needed to put my body on the line and said let me take the bullets and the boys be safe at the back."So I was outspoken about it. I'm in the business of winning. I know it doesn't show a very good role model but I have to fight for the team. I must also deflect all these things and play mind games."You can't want to win the league and play Champions League and you don't play the minds. We would not have won this league if I didn't put my body on the line."I can choose to be a popular coach, but some of the things I needed to fight. I'm not in a popularity contest. But there are times when I know I must stop and not go overboard. I said what I had to say, hey. This is my team, I know it's really not my team, but it's my team. I have to fight for the team."firstname.lastname@example.org