South Africa news

Sundowns coach Neeskens attacked

October 1, 2012
By Firdose Moonda and ESPN staff

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens has said he will not quit his job at the South African club despite being attacked by fans after a defeat to Moroka Swallows.

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens
PA PhotosMamelodi Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens

The attack came less than a month after Neeskens had needed a police escort following an earlier league setback.

The loss to Moroka Swallows - a fourth league defeat of the season - sparked a pitch invasion. Missiles were thrown and the dugouts knocked over, and supporters breached security to reach Neeskens in the tunnel.

Pictures emerged showing the coach, twice a World Cup runner-up with Netherlands, covering his head with his hands in an attempt to shield himself from blows.

The attack happened despite policemen flanking him on both sides. Police and security forces were able to regain control and escort him out of the ground.

The situation at Sundowns is dire, despite the wealth of owner Patrice Motsepe, a mining billionaire described by some as "the Roman Abramovich of Africa".

They languish third from the bottom of the table and have not won a match since the first day of the season in early August.

The Sundowns have not won the league since 2006-07 season, and they have been through four coaches since then. The first of them, Frenchmen Henri Michel, resigned after a year in charge when an angry mob demanded he quit.

Neeskens, however, has vowed not to be hounded out. "This problem is for the club and the players ... pressure will always be there, but I can handle it," he said.

South Africa's Premier Soccer League administration has expressed disappointment at the violence.

The organisation's acting chief executive, Cambridge Mokanyane, called it "unacceptable," and said it "cannot be tolerated."

He reiterated that the safety of players and fans was the league's "utmost priority", but did not say anything about the wellbeing of coaches.