Opinion: Is Dr Irvin Khoza still fit to lead Orlando Pirates?

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THE IRON DUKE: Orlando Pirates chairman Dr Irvin Khoza. PICTURE BY Soccer Laduma.

On the 11th of February 2017 the country witnessed another shame in South African football at the Loftus Stadium in Pretoria were defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns faced off with Orlando Pirates. 


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This game was touted as being ‘the’ game of the weekend. It was dubbed the “clash of the Stars” but it turned out to be the shame of the weekend and this is as a result of the behaviour of Orlando Pirates supporters who stormed the pitch after Percy Tau scored the 6th goal putting the final nail in the Bucs coffin.

The pandemonium resulted in a break of almost an hour, 15 injuries, broken Supersport TV audio equipment and a destroyed Loftus Versfeld Stadium. However, most importantly, it is the Orlando Pirates brand that got severely dented.

You see, the scenes of the past Saturday left us reeling with shock, embarrassment and sadness. None of us who follow the game of football expected that travesty that unfolded, especially after witnessing the quality display of football being dished out by Masandawana.

It truly was a sad day for South African football and the question now deepens: who do we hold accountable for that mess? Is it the fans, the players, the stadium security or those who are leading the Premier Soccer League?

Well let me start off by saying that, it is the Orlando Pirates fans that started the mess after seeing their team being annihilated 6-nil and I suppose it just got unbearable to once again see their team being given a dozen of goals in the space of a few weeks.

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It was painful and I believe that their actions were as a result of them venting out.

PHOTO BY Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images.

It is not excusable and cannot be condoned but it happened and probably they felt it was their only way to get their chairman, Dr Irvin Khoza, to take them seriously.

Being a football fan does not come at an easy price, fans spend so much and commit so much time just to go and support their favourite teams, they spend from the gear, to the transport and overall stadium entertainment but most importantly they leave everything and commit about two hours to watching their team play.

This is called loyalty, something that soccer bosses don’t take seriously nowadays.

Now, Dr Irvin Khoza is the chairman of one the big teams in South Africa, a team that was born in 1937, a team with a rich history and culture and for him to be leading it in the manner that he has in recent years is a course for concern.

Orlando Pirates is turning 80 years this year and as it approaches its 80th anniversary one remains concerned at the rate in which it is deteriorating as one of the most sort after team’s in Mzantsi.

Some of us have followed “The Iron Duke”, as Dr Khoza is affectionately known. He has been a leading role player, game changer and the biggest contributor to South African football.

He and many others built this industry on sweat and tears and created a multi-million industry all because of their passion and love for the game. But at 69, the old man looks to be abandoning the ship he helped to stir for many years.

The fans believe he has become aloof and absent from running the affairs at Parktown, hence the ship is now sinking.

IMAGE: Twitter/EWNSport

The demise or rather decline of the quality football that we have been accustomed to is a result of a lack of visionary leadership at Pirates.

The players are not playing for the badge but for the name written on the back of their jersey. They don’t know what loyalty and honour is, hence that attitude spills on the field.

They too must take the blame but they aren’t leading themselves. There is a captain, the technical team, the management and the chair and his board.

They should have been reined in a long time ago when they lost 6-1 against Supersport but instead, an embarrassed Muhsin Ertugal resigned because of that humiliation.

No action was taken against these players who were pitiful, the same players who have been to several finals but came second best.

There are senior players who don’t come to the party and a captain, Oupa Manyisa, who does not command authority on the field like Lucky Lekgwathi did during his time leading the very same players.

These players are clearly tired and no longer want to play for brand Orlando Pirates; they must be offloaded as a matter of urgency.

Then you have the technical team lead by veteran Augusto Palacios. Let’s just say he is also not in control in as much as he has spent many years at Pirates.

Bradley Carnell and Benson Mhlongo are also not inspiring confidence on these boys, perhaps because of the handlers who keep interfering in the business of coaching who are part of the management.

You have the administrator Floyd Mbele and Technical Director Stanley Tshabalala part of management who have always been implicated in the running of affairs at Pirates as the terrible two who control everything from coaches, to team lists and who gets to play or not.

They are implicated in the state that this once so glorious team finds itself in and also need to be thrown down the gauntlet immediately.

IMAGE: Sydney Mahlangu/BackPagePix

Dr Khoza has entrusted the running of Orlando Pirates to people who do not have its best interests at heart. Yes teams go through a slump period but some just don’t recover.

Look at Moroka Swallows who are sitting in 13th position in the ABC Motsepe League and Jomo Cosmos. They have failed to recover and it’s all because of the leadership that has been provided in those teams.

Orlando Pirates had one of the best academies but it too was run to the ground on the basis of ethics and fraud. It used to produce great players but wrong things were allowed to happen that rendered it dysfunctional.

Where was the Iron Duke when all this happened I ask?!

And now the one thing that had become a treasured possession in the hearts of many Bucs fans is also being run down, all because the Chairman has become too philosophical in addressing the problems; is absent, as he wears several caps, to care whether Pirates lives to exist or not.

The travesty that occurred at Loftus was also as a result of a lack of security that is sufficiently trained to be observant and to contain such situations.

Even after so many years of such incidences breaking out the very Dr Khoza, who is also the chair of the PSL, will just condemn the violence. Equally he must shoulder the blame for the lack of security at these stadiums that makes it easy for fans to do as they please and for what is happening at Orlando Pirates.

I conclude by saying that Dr Irvin Khoza may probably not be the best person at this stage to continue to lead.

IMAGE: Ole Media

He needs to reflect on himself and ask himself whether he is still fit to lead Pirates.

I say no.

He has played a very significant role in building the team but the Buccaneers need a young, new broom to come in and sweep clean. A person who is more energised.

A visionary who has a plan to resuscitate brand Orland Pirates.

It will surely be more critical to announce the reshuffling and overhauling of the team, management and chair than it will be to be announce a new coach.

…who will only come in to find the same problems that exist at Pirates.

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*Palesa Motshoene is the founder of Kefootbollo Nthwena. You can follow her @MissPalulu