Rulani Mokwena is testament to the fact that, no matter how convinced you are, never promote the side to be the main, one Fat Cats member said this week. But I disagree.
Mokwena might have made enemies before with his antics on the touchline, but let’s not judge him on the past. His time is now.
There is nowhere to hide for him now as the spotlight is firmly on him as the captain of the ship.
It was easy for him when Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic was there because, no matter what he did, the buck stopped with the head coach.
Mokwena could get away with murder knowing that he was not the one who would be held to account. But now that the tables have turned, he has to take responsibility for his actions – and live by them.
What I know is that it is easy to criticise and have a lot to say from afar. It is easy to improve on something that is there already, but starting from scratch is something else. It was easy for him to be seen “overruling” Micho and doing it for the cameras, but not any more.
Thrown into the deep end following Micho’s sudden resignation, Mokwena has to now learn to swim with the sharks. It is basically a case of sink or swim for Mokwena. How he got the job is immaterial – as a coach or assistant, you always have to be ready to step up when your name is called.
Unfortunately, he had to hit the ground running and the fact that he has failed to win any of the four matches he has been in charge of is a bad reflection on him. Orlando Pirates are already lagging behind after being knocked out of the MTN8 and the CAF Champions League in the space of seven days.
At the moment, Pirates look like a rudderless ship and Mokwena needs to steer it back to calmer waters.
It is often said that, when days are dark, friends are few and this is the situation Mokwena finds himself in at Pirates.
Touted as the best thing to happen to South African football not so long ago, now he finds himself desperately trying to win friends over. But true supporters stand by their coach when days are dark and he needs them most now.
It might be too early to judge him, but Mokwena knows that he represents millions of South Africans who aspire to be in his position. His failure would not only be his, but it would be felt by many.
However, Mokwena must not ride on the hype of being young, black and talented.
There will be no free ride for him. He will ultimately be judged on results. The harsh reality is that football fans are a fickle lot, particularly those who support the big teams in this country.
Being from the Pirates dynasty will count for nothing if he fails to produce results or, at the very least, deliver the attractive football that endeared Micho and the likes of former coach Kostadin Papic to the Ghosts.
Mokwena should know he is on notice. No one was born great and we all started somewhere – young and inexperienced – but we went on to become the best in the business.
Like they say, the ball is now in his court. It is every coach’s dream to lead a top club in the country, and Mokwena has been given the opportunity to prove his detractors wrong. But there’s only one way to do that – with results.
All he needs to do is to shut his mouth and let the results do the talking. If all else fails, he can always go back to the lyrics of Nina Simone’s To Be Young, Gifted and Black for some inspiration, and knowing that there are many who look up to him.
But, for now, like Steve Biko said: “Black man, you are on your own.