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Just Watch: Downs' three wise men have the last laugh

They might have been snubbed for coaching awards, but the Sundowns trio of Manqoba Mngqithi, Rulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela have won the most important prize of all
Fri, Jun 04, 2021

Illustration by Carlos Amato

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In January, the Mamelodi Sundowns fans were up in arms.

Their gripe was that the judging panel for the DStv Premiership Coach of the Month award was still in a generous mood when it decided Brandon Truter of Swallows would get the accolade instead of the duo of Manqoba Mngqithi and Rulani Mokwena.

When Truter was handed the shiny trophy and the R5000 prize money, the press statement failed to even make mention of the fact that it had been a tight race between the rival coaches during the five-game cycle of the campaign.

Mngqithi and Mokwena had, in fact, managed two points more than the Dube Birds in that period, but the argument was that Truter was given the gong on sentiment, Swallows being a club with minimal resources and punching above their weight.

Heck, the yellow nation were so livid that they demanded Steve Komphela, a senior coach appointed in that role at the start of the season to complete the Downs trio in the dugout, should have also been acknowledged.

Mngqithi and Mokwena did not win this award until earlier this week, having already clinched the trophy that mattered the most after 30 games – the league title.

The lack of recognition earlier in the season was wrong: you don't sit top of the table for as long as they have and not pick up the odd monthly award. But when the panel only has to look at a block of five matches, that's bound to happen and this should not have bothered the coaches or the supporters to begin with.

Sundowns, true to form, built up serious expectations at the start of the 2020/21 season when more than 10 new players were signed to add to what was an already star-studded team coming off a treble-winning campaign.

The football fraternity was divided on what success should look like for the Brazilians, with some adamant that Mngqithi and Mokwena should retain the championship, won by Pitso Mosimane the previous year, at a canter.

Others, though in the minority, wrote off the duo and harped on about Komphela's lack of silverware in his time as head coach at various clubs, notably Kaizer Chiefs, where he spent three seasons without a winners' medal.

They called it a curse.

While Truter was getting the plaudits and Downs fans were harassing the judging panel to explain its criteria, the Chloorkop technical team was hard at work on continental assignments and juggling their chock-a-block domestic schedule.

A treble couldn't be repeated.

But what they have proven is that it's not how you start, but the way in which you finish the race – the tasty liquids that come along the way during a marathon are nice and give added inspiration to up your game, but they aren't everything.

In future, Downs fans should be well aware that individual awards are a luxury when the task at hand is much, much bigger.

Mngqithi, Mokwena and Komphela have had the last laugh.

  • Watch Sundowns being crowned champions vs Cape Town City in the final game of the season on 5 June, at 3pm, on DStv channel 202.   

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