Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone? Joni Mitchell never lies.
That lyric from an old Janet Jackson hit probably sums up how I feel about the past week in South African football.
This week, we’ve seen two of the biggest names in the Mzansi football landscape disappear, under-appreciated.
Ajax Cape Town is no more and Pitso Mosimane packed his bags and left the country.
No matter what you thought of the club or the man, they left their mark on the South African game.
Some might say good riddance to both, but the legacies they leave behind will bear fruit, linger and, one day, you WILL learn to appreciate them.
Nowhere will the absence of Ajax be felt like right here in the Mother City.
I don’t think I can ever overstate what the Dutch link meant in the early years of a two-decade partnership.
Built on the back of Benni McCarthy’s transfer to Amsterdam in 1997, it was a direct road to one of the truly great football clubs.
It was supposed to give South African footballers the chance to play top-level football for an institution that produced some of the most celebrated and successful players in Europe for the last 70 years.
Who wouldn’t want to wear the jersey of Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Wesley Sneijder and Frank Rijkaard?
But while many players went to the Netherlands for a further examination, only Benni and Steven Pienaar had really big careers in Europe.
And even though Nigeria’s Jon Obi Mikel, Enoh Eyong of Cameroon and Burkina Faso’s 19-year-old striker Lassina Traore went on to make the grade, not many South Africans made the step up.
One has to wonder what went so wrong that the conveyor belt just stopped.
But the club’s record goalscorer, Nathan Paulse, believes that it was a failure by both parties to find a mutual understanding of what needed to be done to equip the local talent and coaches to meet expectations.
One thing Amsterdam and Cape Town had in common
during their partnership was the reputation of being a nursery for talent.
Look around the PSL. Hell, look at Cape Town City.
Taariq Fielies, Abbubaker Mobara, Tashreeq Morris, Thato Mokeke – all of them ex-Ikamva boys.
That is what you call legacy – just the same as the club returning as Cape Town Spurs.
And when the PSL season kicks off later this month, Ajax, though in the past, will still be in our future.
Pitso Mosimane will be another ghost haunting the game once the action kicks off.
After leading Mamelodi Sundowns to a domestic treble last season, those left behind will be competing for the titles he won without him as defending champion.
It kind of leaves the whole league feeling hollow, doesn’t it?
We’ve often moaned at how Sundowns owner Patrice Motsepe’s money has bought title after title.
We’ve said Sundowns snaps up the league’s best players just to make them unavailable to their rivals.
We saw in the current transfer market how Downs have bought 11 players – a hele span – ahead of the new season.
And while we can say all those things, can you see another coach coming in now and achieving what Pitso did? I’m not so sure.
During his eight-year stay at Downs, only Roger de Sa and Eric Tinkler while they were at Orlando Pirates showed the same ambition as he did in continental football.
In winning the Caf Champions League in 2016, Pitso stands alone as the only SA coach to have lifted the prize.
Despite this obvious ambition or maybe because of it, Pitso has been under-appreciated. You have to give him some credit for managing that massive squad. Or go and ask Ole Gunnar Solskjaer how he is coping.
Perhaps it’s the arrogance when winning, perhaps it’s the defensiveness when losing, perhaps it’s the way he shifted the blame, but he did get under people’s skin.
Remember when he and his Bafana Bafana players celebrated a draw thinking that they had qualified for the 2012 Afcon? Yoh. Embarrassing.
And of course, this year’s Tebogo Langerman scandal in the Nedbank Cup. Do you really believe that was an oversight?
Anyway, when football returns to empty stadiums around South Africa this month, there will be no Red and White for the PSL’s big clubs to scout and lure to Gauteng.
And there will be no team coached by Mosimane to run off with the league title.
It’s funny that all the haters say now that Pitso is gone, some other team (read Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates) can win the league.
So it wasn’t about Motsepe’s money after all?
And that’s why I say: you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.