Pitso Mosimane, the charismatic Al Ahly manager who guided the side to an impressive 10th title of the continental flagship interclub competition in Morocco over the weekend, has singled out Al Ahly President Mahmoud El Khatib for praise.
“Let’s be honest,” Mosimane said at the post-match press conference of the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League final, “without President El Khatib, I wouldn’t be here. I doubt.”
Mosimane added: “For many years, it has been a norm that whenever a club from this part of the world searches for a new coach, they go to Europe and find a new coach. It was a norm. If not Europe, they try someone from around but mainly Europe. But Captain El Khatib went against the wind. He took a very bold decision and I’m sure a lot of people didn’t understand him then. It was a very bold decision and I’m sure very difficult as well because, you bring this coach, yes I was known in Egypt but no-one from Sub Sahara Africa has ever coached the club in over 100 years. And what if this decision backfires and it turns out to be a very bad move? There was a lot at stake but he went ahead and backed me for this job.”
Since taking over at Al Ahly last year in October, Mosimane has won two TotalEnergies CAF Champions League titles, in addition to TotalEnergies Super Cup, Egypt Cup, and finished third in the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar.
When he won the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League last year, he received little credit as many felt he had benefited from the legacy of then coach Rene Weiler.
Mosimane had arrived after the quarterfinal stages of the competition and needed to play the two-legged semis and the final match.
While there is no denying that Swiss born Weiler had laid a foundation for him, it could have still gone wrong for the club and for him had they lost the semis and the final. But they went on to win it.
In 2021 edition, he started the team from the opening stages up to the final. At times, he received a lot of criticism for the style of football the team was playing.
But Mosimane is both a philosopher and a pragmatist: these two have guided his successful coaching life. He buys himself time before bringing on board his philosophical ideas.
For him, football is not just a game – it is a platform to influence the thinking of society.
It is for these reasons why he feels the bold move by El Khatib went before football reasons but was a historical moment that altered the course of African football history.
“He (El Khatib) is now part of history. Because of him, many clubs will now be open to hiring coaches that look like me – not just those who come from Europe. And, I have nothing against Europe, I have nothing against top managers who come from Europe to exchange their knowledge here. But we Africans are also good enough – we also have ideas, we also have philosophy. We just need to be trusted,” Mosimane said.
Trust is what El Khatib has given him. And Mosimane has reciprocated with success on the field.