Africa’s best manager moves to Africa’s biggest club. A match made by the footballing gods that has sent African football twitter into a frenzy. The excitement is obviously called for, but one thing that has gone under the radar is what this move could mean for the future of African football.
As Amr Nageeb Fahmy mentioned in our reaction video on our Youtube channel, an African tactician has never managed one of Egypt’s top clubs. Al Ahly and Zamalek traditionally go for a European or South American manager. In the rare event they don’t, they hire an Egyptian. The move of Pitso Mosimane, a South African, to Africa’s best club, in Egypt, will be monumental for the future movement of African coaches across the continent.
Al Ahly witnessed first hand how good Pitso was when his Sundowns side embarrassed the Egyptian outfit 5-0 in the quarter-finals of last year’s CAF Champions League. The experience must have stuck with the Al Ahly board all this time, as 17 months later when rumours began to rumble that Rene Weiler would quit the Ahly job, Pitso was Al Ahly’s first request.
Currently none of the elite North African clubs are managed by coaches from other African countries. Esperance de Tunis have found long-term success in their own man Mooine Chaabani while Wydad Casablanca tend to go with European managers. Raja Casablanca are currently sticking with former player Jamal Sellami. Egypt’s powerhouses Al Ahly and Zamalek have been two of the premier jobs in African football for foreign managers. This is why the signing of Pitso is so important.
The potential it has for African managers goes under the radar because the singing makes perfect sense: Pitso clearly deserved the job. If Mosimane enjoys a successful stint in Cairo, could we see more clubs take a chance on African managers?
I can imagine seeing more clubs in Egypt experimenting with tacticians from Sub-Saharan Africa. Could a club like Raja Casablanca take a punt on a storied manager like Florent Ibenge? Will Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel look for the next Aliou Cisse in the Senegalese league?
The opportunities are boundless. Pitso’s move from Sundowns to the Red Devils will surely help bridge the divide between North and Sub-Saharan African football. I hope it will be the start of seeing African football becoming more united in having players and managers from all around the continent plying their trades everywhere.
While the thought of seeing a more diverse managerial pool in African football is great, it is important to note that Pitso has put himself in the perfect position to make a move to European football in the future should he succeed with Al Ahly.
If after a few years Pitso has won multiple trophies with the Red Devils and feels he has achieved all he can, what’s stopping him from being a real candidate to coach in a European league?
My main concern is his age (56), but besides that I believe he has what it takes right now to manage in a small European league. At Ahly he will be playing with higher-quality players in a footballing environment that more closely models itself on top-tier European clubs. This would prepare him for a theoretical move, and I imagine that after a season or two at Al Ahly he would have all the credentials required to warrant a move, if he doesn’t already. The big question is whether or not Pitso desires that for his future.