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Back You are here: Home Sports Other Coaches: Farewell Sir Alex & Cheers Mr Kirsten
Thursday, 16 May 2013 09:21

Coaches: Farewell Sir Alex & Cheers Mr Kirsten

Written by  Jaco Zeeman

South African sport lovers are in mourning. Within the space of a few hours, they have had to come to terms with having to bid farewell to two great coaches.


Gary Kirsten decided to place his family commitments before the Proteas and Sir Alex Ferguson has finally decided, after twenty-six years to bid his beloved Manchester United farewell. Soccer lovers all over the world and cricket lovers in South Africa were hard hit during this week when the announcements came through that there will be no more Sir Alex for Manchester United and there will be no more Gary for South-Africa’s Proteas.

Despite the fact that the South African cricket team is ranked very highly on the world ladder as opposed to our soccer team which battles to qualify for major international events, the number of cricket-loving fans in South Africa, pails into insignificance when compared to the number of soccer lovers in this country. The loss of Gary Kirsten is indeed a major loss for the cricket fraternity and he will be sadly missed by many. How does this then compare to the resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson?

If we look at the media coverage then it is indeed sad that the well-known, well-respected cricketer hardly got a mention and made one or two headlines in the tabloids. To add insult to injury, his replacement announced within 24 hours. There is in fact substantiated truth in the saying that no-one is irreplaceable. Yes his resignation was handled with the utmost diplomacy and no-one will deny Gary his noble need to spend time with his family, but did his story get the coverage it deserved?

Gary Kirsten has an impeccable track record in this country and abroad. Despite his own personal achievements as a cricketer, of which there are many, his contribution as a coach at many levels and as far afield as the Indian National team deserves more than just a mention on page three of the tabloids. Gary has turned test cricket around for South Africa; under his reign and tenure, South Africa became the world’s number one test cricketing nation and for a short while they held all three top spots in the three main formats of the game. His loss to the national cricket team, to the supporters of the team and to the entire South African population needs more than just a level two heading on page three of the local newspaper.

What then overshadowed this significant event? A couple of days before Gary made his announcement, Sir Alex’s shock decision to retire took not only the home supporters of Manchester United by storm, it impacted on every single soccer lover in the world. South African supporters of soccer stood in disbelief; after all, the man is a legend. After 26 long years as the manager of the beloved Manchester United his decision was broadcasted widely and on different media platforms. So of interest and significance was this decision that it catapulted himto the top global trending topic onsocial media within eight minutes of the announcement, generating 6 million tweets within 24 hours, according to Twitter. Twenty minutes after breaking, the story was generating a voracious 13,000 tweets per minute. Not only did the word spread quickly around the world of this completely unexpected turn of events, but soon every media organisation started to provide detailed information about his career, his family, his personality and his successes. The successor of the gum-chewing legend was announced within twenty four hours, and the only thing left for die-hard supporters is to look forward to Fergie’s last game at Old Trafford. Manchester United supporters from all over the world have taken out second bonds on their properties to fund an unplanned trip to Old Trafford, to witness the significant ‘last Fergie home game’ event.

Interested fans speculated on the reasons, the outcomes and the way forward for Sir Alex and each had their own opinion. The money-hungry media fed information to the information-seeking inquisitive public and daily sales figures of newspapers hit record-breaking heights. Fans wanted to know how much money he has, what is he going to do now, if stepping down really would mean stepping down, or is it not just a stepping back. Notably one has to take into account that Sir Alex has served his time at Manchester United, he is considered one of the most successful managers of club soccer in the world, signified by a meteoric rise from nowhere to winning 13 Premier League titles and 38 cups, including two Champions League trophies.

The impact of Gary’s resignation and the approach which his successor will apply to take the South African national team forward will be felt by each and every loyal South African in the years to come. The impact however of the resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson, will have little if any influence on South-Africa’s nation-building, inclusivity and pride. The success or failure of our Proteas in the forthcoming games however will shape policies, build bridges, unite and divide many South Africans. Team selections and approach will be discussed around campfires and next to cricket fields, providing opportunities for people to connect the dots.

What exactly is it then that sets these two men apart for us in South Africa? It does not lie in the history of their success or in the number crunching of the support base across state boundaries. It lies simply in the life cycle of the product. Sir Alex’s rise, meteoric as it might be has come to an end. He has hit the decline phase. After all the man is 71, and despite the idea that he might just be immortal, he is on the declining slope of life.

The truth which has to be faced by every single human-being is that we are all only given a few years in which to make our impact on this world. Sir Alex has done his time, he has left an indelible mark on soccer players, officials and supporters across the world. Gary Kristen is only just starting out. With great success stories already attributed to his name, at the tender age of 47, he is only now where Fergie was when he started at Manchester United. Gary has only completed the introductory phase of the product that is on offer. He has now matured and his record of success, his soft-spoken and humble approach and his decision to put in the hours with his family will sit well with the average South-African. Gary is only just starting in the maturity phase of his career, and he will remain here for perhaps, like Sir Alex, a good twenty odd years. Gary might just go on to accumulate as much as Sir Alex’s speculated 50 million pounds which he accumulated in his 26 years. Gary has chosen to put his career on hold, who knows what a lucrative contract from the money-spinning IPL league can do to boost his personal wealth.

Fergie is gone, there is no come-back, there will be no more ‘hairdryer blasts’ and ‘Fergie-extra time’ moments at Old Trafford. We need to give him his accolades now and sing his praises now as soon there will be nothing more to say. Gary will still get his headlines and his tweets, his time will come, if that is what he wants.