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Africa Sports News of Sunday, 7 February 2021


Al Ahly's South African coach talks Mandela inspiration

He might be known as the "Pep Guardiola" of African football, but Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane's mantra is one coined by the iconic Nelson Mandela.

"It always looks impossible until somebody does it," Mosimane tells CNN Sport. The 56-year-old coach is sitting in his office at the Cairo giants, with Al Ahly's famed red, black and white colors emblazoned on the walls around him.

Mosimane won a record five league titles in seven years with South African club Mamelodi Sundowns, was part of the Bafana Bafana coaching staff at the inaugural FIFA World Cup hosted on the continent and became Al Ahly's first ever Black coach in 2020.

He will now have an opportunity to prove his mettle to the world after leading the Egyptian outfit to the promised land of club football as Al Ahly is set to participate at FIFA's Club World Cup, which begins in Qatar on February 4, when it plays Al Duhail SC.

If Al Ahly win that match, the Egyptian club will face Bayern Munich for a place in final. Bayern will be the favorite to win the semifinal, but expectations are always high at a club like Al Ahly, which says it has 60 million fans in the Arab world and has won 140 trophies.

Mosimane grew up in apartheid South Africa, so he is understandably proud of his coaching achievements, given his humble roots. And it's Mandela's own legacy that rightly inspires him.

"Have you ever thought, in our time, that South Africa can have a Black president as Nelson Mandela?" enthuses Mosimane as he reflects on the life of a man who was incarcerated for 27 years. "That is an amazing story."

Mosimane himself has reached great heights, and his gilded touch has seen all of the club teams he's coached claim silverware. His proudest achievements came when he conquered the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League on two separate occasions -- firstly with Sundowns in 2016 and then Al Ahly four years later.

"Can you believe that somebody from the township like me, from the background of apartheid, from the humble beginnings, can be the first person to win the Champions League in South Africa? And win it twice and become coach of the year on the continent," he says with almost a sense of disbelief.

'Club of the century'

Last season, Mosimane did what nobody in world football has achieved to date. He was a part of two teams that secured trebles in their respective countries. First, he won three trophies in South Africa, including the league, in what is widely regarded as the strongest African domestic competition.

And then he followed this up with Al Ahly, leading it to the continental crown as it beat arch-rival Zamalek 2-1 in the CAF Champions League final.

Al Ahly had in fact wrapped up the league title under René Weiler, who departed late in the season to be with his family in Switzerland, but Mosimane received a winner's medal as he took over the team for the final two league games of the campaign and then guided the Red Devils to another triumph in the Egyptian Cup.

"Al Ahly is a club that demands success, and in Egypt and Africa, it's known as the club of the century," explained former Egyptian international turned pundit Yaser Elshanawany.

"There's only one other club that's won more trophies than Al Ahly in the world and that's Real Madrid, so when you get this job there's lots of expectation."

"From the people I've spoken to at the club, they all tell me technically he's very strong and knows how to analyze other teams. But he's really loved by the players and his staff because psychologically he knows how to connect with them, and build relationships with them," Elshanawany added.

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