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Mosimane leaves Al-Ahly, but fans should praise his time with the Egyptian giants

After weeks of speculation, it was finally over. Pitso Mosimane and Al-Ahly parted ways on Monday, just three months after the coach signed a two-year contract extension at the club.

It didn’t come as a major surprise, however, and it ends what was a roller coaster relationship. He had only been in charge of Egyptian Titans since September 2020, but that seemed longer as there were a lot of people in those 21 months. The South African can walk away with his head held high as the Red Giants enter a new era.

But just like his time at the club, his legacy will be hotly debated, he should be secure as he flew the flag for African coaching at the continent’s biggest club.

Al-Ahly announced that they had wanted the coach to stay, but it was Mosimane’s decision to leave. “Mosimane has asked to leave and that he is satisfied with the achievements he has managed to achieve with the club,” the club said in a statement. “It has been decided to approve his request to part ways with the club and to thank him for the achievements he has made.”

These achievements are impressive. The man known as ‘Jingles’ has won back-to-back CAF Champions League titles, winning in 2020 and then again in 2021. He also took the team to the final last month where Wydad AC lost 2-0, although the Moroccans had home advantage and 50,000 screaming fans behind them.

He led the team to successive third places at the 2020 and 2021 FIFA Club World Cup. Mosimane’s big regret will surely be missing out on the 2021 league title. Al-Ahly was fine, but as they were busy with continental and then global engagements, rivals Zamalek cleared at the top. While the Reds nearly recovered the deficit, they were unable to finish the job. Something similar also happened this season. Al-Ahly have slipped to third in the league, seven points behind Zamalek, but are four games behind.

It will now be up to assistant coach Samy Komsan to manage this situation with a game on Wednesday against El-Sharqia and then the big Cairo derby four days later. Games will come thick and fast – there are five in the space of 14 days this month – but that’s the price paid for going deep in multiple tournaments.

Mosimane, who led Mamelodi Sundowns to the 2016 Champions League, will surely feel a bit of relief that training for Africa’s biggest club is now complete. According to those close to him, he felt that there were just too many problems between him and the bosses and he was tired of the constant criticism leveled at him by many former Al-Ahly players, even when he was winning trophies .

“The journey that will always remain in our hearts began in October 2020,” Mosimane wrote to fans in a farewell letter. “The warmth and love with which we were welcomed made us feel already at home. Although we felt pressure joining the Century Club, we knew we had been sent to Cairo for a reason. That reason was to deliver.

He then goes on to describe how he delivered.

As the first sub-Saharan coach to take charge of Al-Ahly, Mosimane showed big clubs in the north of the continent that there was talent in the south. He established himself as the best coach in Africa by winning the Champions League with more than one club. If he had triumphed in the last final, he would have been the first to win three in a row. If there are open-minded European CEOs and presidents out there, they should call the 57-year-old. It is not only his track record that should arouse interest, but also his knowledge of the continent as well as his contacts. Having coached big clubs such as Sundowns and Al-Ahly, there would be no problem when it comes to pressure as few clubs elsewhere can match the Egyptian giants for this.

For Al-Ahly, the time of Mosimane should act as a similar lesson: there are reasons to look elsewhere in Africa. The criticism leveled at Mosimane by former players is as it is in Cairo, although there is a suspicion that if he had been European or South American there would have at least been a bit more patience and understanding. Perhaps the bosses could have been more supportive of their manager, but it will never be easy when club legends weigh in like a Greek football choir with their negative opinions on a regular basis. And in the end, more than 600 days in charge of Al-Ahly is a longer period than most coaches can manage.

A positive legacy would be for those around the club to wonder if their public proclamations are actually helping Al-Ahly, but that won’t happen. The big clubs attract attention, although there are more of them on Al-Ahly than most.

When the dust settles, Mosimane’s time in Egypt will be considered a success both in terms of titles and trophies and what he has done for the reputation of African coaches. Hopes will be high that the coach and club can move on to bigger and better things, but come what may, they will consider their 21-month relationship a bit rocky but very successful.