Orlando Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic says he would have slapped Bongani Zungu if the Bafana Bafana midfielder was one of his former players and had made the inflammatory comments he posted on Twitter a few days ago.
Zungu‚ a former Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder who now plays for Amiens in Ligue 1 in France‚ controversially took to Twitter last week and insinuated that Pirates assistant coach Rulani Mokwena was the real boss at the Premier Soccer League leaders.
The comment suggested that Sredojevic was not the brains behind Pirates’ impressive start to the season and it was in fact his close friend Mokwena who deserved the credit.
Zungu suggested in the same tweet that Mokwena had a similar influence — if not a greater one — at former club Sundowns, where he served as head coach Pitso Mosimane’s assistant before moving to Pirates at the start of last season.
The tweet sparked a furious reaction. Zungu eventually backed down, apologising on the same social media platform that he had used to make the controversial coach comments.
Sredojevic said that if a player he had "made", citing Nemanja Matic as an example, had done to any coach what Zungu had done‚ "I would personally slap him".
Zungu’s comments put Sredojevic under pressure and he felt it necessary to confirm that he is "totally" in charge at Pirates. "But if someone else does this‚ as I told you it’s not important‚ but I really know that I’m in charge as a head coach‚" Sredojevic said.
"I know that I have a very strong team that is led by me and assistant coach Rulani and I am happy with those things.
"Regretfully, this is what has happened. I will just say it has been unfortunate and, you know‚ personally I believe that it has passed and it’s gone.
"Everyone has a right to his opinion. Let the football talk instead of us."
At the same time Mosimane says he rates Sredojevic as one of the top five coaches on the continent. "I have big respect for Micho‚ I come far with Micho‚" said Mosimane.
"I have known Micho for the past 16 years and he has helped me a lot. He was my encyclopedia when I recruited Dennis Onyango at SuperSport United," Mosimane said. "Micho is one of the top five coaches in Africa.
"So all these smaller things and mind games they don’t mean a lot. Micho has won championships … so many. We are bigger than small‚ petty things."
Pirates played to a goalless draw against Sundowns on Saturday afternoon but remain at the premiership summit.