How SA football coaches handle unemployment

There are two certainties in the life of a coach, they will be hired and they will be fired. Their lives when employed are well covered, but what happens when they lose that job?

Life after getting sacked as a coach can go either way. Many are fortunate to get another job not long after being shown the door, while others endure the pain of submitting CVs wherever opportunities present themselves, only to get ignored for months before anyone shows the slightest bit of interest.

There are only 32 professional clubs in South African football. It’s not many. So one can imagine it’s tough to get a job in the professional ranks. Coaches can be hired and fired at any time – with the exception of Jomo Sono, of course – and there are some who go long periods without work. But families still need to be provided for and the misery of not having a monthly income can increase by the day.

While some coaches receive handsome payouts when they get the sack, there are many who do not. This is when saving money and investing becomes so important, to survive the rainy days. Just as players are often advised to save money during their careers, coaches need to do the same.

How to survive joblessness

Highlands Park coach Owen da Gama has been without a job on quite a few occasions in his career, so he knows what it’s like not to receive a salary at the end of the month. And one thing he’s learnt is to have the right clauses in his contracts.

“Firstly, the most important part of being a coach is that there must be a clause in your contract to protect you. It’s all about your contract. If it’s terminated before you’ve had an opportunity to implement everything before a period of time, then obviously there must be some payment and it must be well documented in the contract.

“We coaches sometimes make the mistake of not going into proper contractual agreements with teams. That’s where we let ourselves down. If it’s just a probation period, then that’s something else. If it’s just a plain contract, then you must suffer the consequences of that,” the former Bafana Bafana assistant coach says.

“Number two, as hard as it may be, we as coaches need to make sure that we do save up money for rainy days, because there’s no guarantee that even if you get a payout, you’ll get the next job. Teams could be organised and all the coaches are doing well, and you have to wait for your turn to come. It could be a month, or it could be three years.”

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Da Gama advises against coaches going into business, unless they have someone who can run it for them. With a business, he feels that coaches are not able to focus on their jobs. The former Orlando Pirates and Platinum Stars coach has a farm he inherited from his father when he died, but it runs without him being there every day. So his focus is always on Highlands Park.

“I tried to have an involvement in business, but it takes your focus away. Unless it’s a family business that is run by some family members and you are totally focused on your coaching job. Otherwise I would never advise that type of thing, because you’ve got to be focused,” he says.

“In my instance, I’ve been very fortunate that I inherited a farm from my father. I’ve got a farm that will always be there for me. I’m focused on my job, but I know in rainy days the farm is there and I’ll just wait my time until another job comes around. I make sure that it’s totally independent from me. It can run by itself and I’m fortunate that my mom is still alive, and she takes care of business there.

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“When I am out of a job, there’s no doubt in my mind that I can go to my farm and I can make a small living out of it and carry on with my life. I’m fortunate in that instance. But I still believe that as coaches, the contracts should protect not only the teams, but the coaches. Coaches should go into proper agreements with teams.

“Yes, I know it’s not always easy. Because when a coach has not been in a job for a year, they ‘come and we’ll give you an X amount of months and we will see how it goes and talk as time goes on’. Then the coach must understand that anything can happen. Sometimes, we as coaches are hungry and we take any job because we are sort of desperate, you know. And that’s very unfortunate. I never want to take a job out of desperation. I’d rather suffer, you know.”

How Dance finds his groove

Dan “Dance” Malesela, who recently parted ways with GladAfrica Championship side TS Galaxy, has been sacked more than once by his former club Chippa United, which is why he speaks about the importance of having more than one source of income as a coach.

“Yeah, one thing with this career is that you cannot rely on one source of income. You have to have something on the side that will keep you running. But what’s important is saving money. You have to save money, but sometimes it becomes difficult to save. You save money, you work for three months and get fired, then you stay three months without a job. Then you have to go take out that money that you have been saving to survive,” the former Cape Town All Stars coach says.

“There’s a period where I stayed eight months without a job and I had to use all the money that I had saved, to cover all my debts and for my family to survive. But it says to me to have something on the side to survive when you do not have a job as a coach. That’s very important.”

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As someone working in an industry where there are no guarantees, Malesela says family members should also step up and provide, especially during the times when he is not employed.

“If you have a wife who understands your trade, you also can’t be those people who sit at home. They must work, you know. She must work and understand that sometimes things can be this way and help out during those difficult times. But, like I said, the biggest thing is to have something on the side that can help you. There’s something that I have on the side at the moment, but I won’t tell you what it is,” Malesela laughs.

He led Galaxy to the Nedbank Cup last season with a 1-0 victory over Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs. But a difficult campaign this term saw him part ways with the club recently as it battles to avoid relegation in the GladAfrica Championship.

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