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Coaching the coaches 

Coaches teach, inspire and motivate their players in order to win matches. But who inspired the top PSL coaches to take up their careers?

Gavin Hunt  

Budgie Byrne, who I played under at Hellenic for most of my career and who became my father-in-law, was someone I looked up to. “I was always intrigued about the coaching side of the game. I started coaching while I was still playing and coached at schools, including the Western Province side, for extra money.  

“I like coaches like Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp because there’s much more of an opportunity these days to see how they operate. “Coaching for me has always been intriguing. Guys like former Cape Town. 

City coach Frank Lord, John Rowley, Kevin Keegan and Willie Hunter, who did the Mobil coaching clinics in Cape Town in the 1970s, all inspired me. “In my playing days, we had full-time jobs. I was out for nine months with a snapped Achilles tendon and then got offered a job as coach at Vasco da Gama.  

After we beat Seven Stars in a league game I got offered the job by their owner Rob Moore. “During that time I was still coaching in the evenings but then Mitre, the sports goods company for which I had the agency in Cape Town, got bought out. At the same time football also became more professional and I went full-time.  

“José Mourinho has always been my favourite coach – I always felt he galvanised his players very well and managed to get the best out of his teams. Pep is more flamboyant and attacking.” 

Cavin Johnson  

“My biggest inspiration as a coach was Nelson Mandela, the first president of the democratic South Africa. “Madiba was the one who said sport can change lives and that is so true. I was part of the people who lived in the black-and-white era and he really made a difference.  

“I started coaching the Bosmont Chelsea Caltex Colts team and from there I decided I want to make this a career. Centre in Soweto together with a group of people including Farouk Khan, Zunaid Mall, Sam Mbatha and Ted Dumitru, who was also part of the group. 

“From a footballing point of view, for me it was always good to see what the Brazilians were doing. Later on, going to Brazil and listening to and interacting with people like Mário Zagallo, Carlos Alberto Parreira and Zico was a good experience. 

“Locally, Ted Dumitru was someone I looked up to. I also admired Dougie Carelse, the former Cape Town Spurs midfielder, who was coach at Bosmont Chelsea. “While at Ajax Cape Town, I got the platform and opportunity to spend some quality time with Johan Cruyff and Louis van Gaal because of the relationship the club had with Ajax Amsterdam. 

“Just being able to spend a few days with the legendary Cruyff at De Toekomst, Ajax’s headquarters, was an inspiration. “No matter how knowledgeable they were or how many trophies they won, they all had the same message: ‘Football is a very simple game. Keep things as simple as possible and you will get the best results.’ 

“I like what Marcelo Bielsa does. He is crazy about football. You see how his teams play, especially the Leeds United team he brought up to the Premier League in 2020, and see how they played throughout their winning campaign.” 

Rulani Mokwena  

“I come from a football family where my late grandfather, Eric ‘Scara’ Sono, was an Orlando Pirates legend,” Mokwena told “My father, Julius ‘KK’ Sono played professional football and my uncle Jomo was a superstar who played in America with Franz Beckenbauer and Pelé. Growing up with that type of background, I had, and still have, their influence in my career.   

“I started coaching from the age of 14 – it was by default because I was the captain of the under-15 team. I arrived at the field and the under-13s were just sitting around because the coach wasn’t there. As the captain, I took balls and started a training session.   

“I adopted that group because the regular coach had found a job. It gave me the possibilities to try something new and I fell in love with it. “I started doing it officially at the age of 19 when I said: ‘Okay, no more playing now.’   

That was because of a knee injury and then I started focusing on coaching. I got my first coaching badges at 19. “I went on to work at a lot of different academies including the Silver Stars/ Platinum Stars academy, where I worked with some of the top young talent in the country. 

“I’ve worked with Cavin Johnson, who was the head of Youth at Platinum Stars. He had a rich history and body of knowledge about youth development from his early days at the School of Excellence and Ajax Cape Town. Allan Freese taught me lots of things, even at the youth level, about organisation and attention to detail. He was very strong on structures. 

Pitso Mosimane gave me an opportunity and my travels into Europe also helped me greatly. I’ve made a lot of contacts. Coaches like José Mourinho have been incredible from afar, Arsène Wenger has been an incredible source of inspiration.

“Currently, Fernando Diniz in Brazil, Pep Guardiola, Roberto De Zerbi and Roger Schmidt are coaches that I follow quite extensively. They’ve had a big influence in my career. I’ve followed them from a distance, I’ve read their autobiographies, I’ve watched how they train their teams.” 


Words by: Mogamad Allie
Images: Samuel Shivambu/Martin Rickett/Sydney Mahlangu/Backpagepix 

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