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Comment: Does Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena need to win the Champions League to earn respect?

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Johannesburg – The debate over whether current Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rhulani Mokwena needs to win the Caf Champions League trophy as sole head coach in order to earn respect in South African football has been raging for some time now.

Mokwena has been an assistant coach to former head coach Pitso Mosimane and co-coach alongside Manqoba Mngqithi since he joined the Sundowns first team set-up in the 2013/2014 season.

He has enjoyed great success as an assistant and a co-coach, winning the CAF Champions League in 2016, four Premier Soccer League titles, a Nedbank Cup and MTN8  trophy.

That said, Mokwena has recently come under what many may feel is an unjust increase in scrutiny for his failure to win the 2023 Nedbank Cup, a competition he and his astute Sundowns side were favourites to defend, but ended up losing to Stellenbosh in the quarter-final stage.

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The events of the past weekend have raised questions about whether Mokwena needs to win the Caf Champions League trophy as sole head coach, or whether his successes as an assistant coach should be enough to earn him respect in South African football.

The answer to this question is not a simple one as there are different aspects to consider. On the one hand, Mokwena has already achieved much as an assistant coach and has been instrumental in the success of Sundowns in recent years.

Not only that, but he has also shown his tactical acumen at previous club Orlando Pirates as well as now, with the current crop of the Brazilians, bulldozing his way to an outstanding 24-match unbeaten start to life at the helm.

On the other hand, there is an argument to be made that Mokwena needs to not only justify the demotion of Mnqgithi earlier this season, but prove why he should be seen as the long-term leader of this success-riddled organisation.

Mosimane departed the Chloorkop-based outfit just after winning treble in 2020, and under the leadership of Manqoba Mnqgithi, Sundowns won the treble with only one defeat while he was in charge.

Now under the stewardship of Mokwena, they have already wrapped up the league title, their sixth in a row, but were bundled out of the Nedbank cup.

Which begs the question: Why is Mokwena special, and has he earned his right to be named among the biggest football minds in the nation?

The Brazilians take on Algerian side CR Beloúizdad in a Champions League quarter-final first leg tomorrow and are favourites following another impressive group stage showing.

If the 36-year-old mentor is to bring back the coveted continental gold to Chloorkop for the first time since 2016, he would make huge strides in turning the doubters (who still hold a trophy-less spell at Pirates over his head) into believers.

@ScribeSmiso

Sport

* The views expressed are not necessarily the views of or Independent Media.

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