Wed, 26 Feb 2020

Micho-less Pirates from heroes to zero in a week

19 Aug 2019, 22:12 GMT+10

Cape Town - Coaching upheavals at Orlando Pirates are not uncommon and surprising, but the sudden, if not altogether unexpected announcement by amiable Serbian Milutin "Micho" Sredojevic to pack his bags and move out as The Buccaneers have gone from heroes to zero in little more than a week contains among its brouhaha and controversial explanations a lack of credibility that is up with the best of the clangers of the past.

Just think of it, it was only a couple of weeks ago that Pirates thrilled their supporters in an 80 000 crowd at FNB Stadium by imperiously taking traditional rivals Kaizer Chiefs apart with an emphatic, articulate 2-0 victory in what is admittedly a highly over-rated pre-season Carling Black Label Challenge encounter.

The multitude who follow the Buccaneers so passionately all around the country were already, if prematurely predicting a season of unrestrained success and Absa Premiership dominance to match the best in the 82-year history of the legendary club - and gain a first league title since acting coach and club development director Augusto Palacios guided them to the prized honour in the 2011/12 season.

Serbian Sredojevic, of course, was expected to be part of the upcoming boom after two mainly successful seasons with Pirates, even though there was a suspicion among many that his assistant coach and former assistant coach of Mamelodi Sundowns, Rulani Mokwena, was more influential at calling the shots than the man labelled as head of the particular department.

But then, of course, the wheels came off with the unforeseen first-leg 2-1 African Champions League defeat against Zambia's Green Eagles that was followed in quick succession by a humbling 3-0 Absa Premiership loss against SuperSport United - with all hell let loose when the 49-year-old coach known as Micho made it clear he was leaving in a considerable hurry on Friday.

The reason? They multiplied in abundance like entries in an inviting lottery - and here are some of the most plausible and/or imaginative of the assessments:

a. Having to play second fiddle in effect to an influential Mokwena was more than Sredojevic was prepared to stomach any longer.

b. The ruling Pirates hierarchy under chairperson and domineering owner Irvin "The Iron Duke" Khoza had decided to end the charade after the losses to Green Eagles and SuperSport and officially place Mokoena in charge while finally moving to end Sredojevic's tenure.

c. Sredojevic's mother was seriously ill suffering from cancer in Serbia and he was leaving immediately to be at her side.

d. Everything else was a side issue and the real reason for Pirates head coach leaving was that he has joined Egyptian club Zamalek.

And then, after Pirates' woes had multiplied still further on Saturday with a 1-0 home loss against Highlands Park in the opening round of the MTN 8 competition and new head coach Mokwena and assistants Fadlu Davids and Franck Plaine on the bench, the "Milutin Mystery", if it can be portrayed in such lurid terms, took on an even more odious tone when a Sunday newspaper carried a story that the police were investigating a complaint of sexual harassment against Sredojevic and that is why the Pirates coach had fled post-haste from South Africa.

Believe it or not - or is it simply what some now refer to as fake news?

At any rate it's left Pirates in a downward spiral whatever the final conclusions, with two tough and challenging games this week in the Absa Premiership and CAF Champions League - and supporters perhaps wondering if it is not simply all a bad dream.

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