Thursday Dec 15, 2016. 08:12
Former South Africa World Cup coach “Jomo” Sono is to be conferred with Honorary Doctorate Awards by two leading Universities, namely the University of London and the University of Dubai, today.
The ground-breaking event, which is scheduled for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is in recognition of Sono’s monumental achievements as a renowned former soccer player, business magnate and soccer tactician per excellence.
Sono, arguably the best soccer export from the shores of South Africa, enjoyed a glittering career that spanned almost two decades culminating in several outstanding awards for the gifted player, talent scout, seasoned coach and business mogul.
Part of his rich and awesome resume includes playing professional football for Orlando Pirates where he remains a legend till this day, as well as memorable stints overseas at Sporting Lisbon and later in America for the (now defunct) New York Cosmos, where he starred alongside Brazilian legend Pele and German stalwart, Franz Beckenbauer.
Sono owns and tinkers leading South African football club Jomo Cosmos FC, and is currently the longest serving coach in South African domestic football.
After his soccer career in the USA ended, Sono returned to South Africa, where he purchased the Highlands Park Club in Johannesburg in 1982, renaming it Jomo Cosmos in honour of his old team.
Under his ownership, the club went on to achieve several successes, winning the National Soccer League in 1987, the Bobsave Super Bowl in 1990, the Cola-Cola Cup in 2002 and 2005, and the Super Eight trophy in 2003. Jomo Cosmos has also consistently finished among the top teams in the South African Premier Soccer League.
Sono has also taken a leading role in discovering and developing new football talent, especially from rural areas. Some of the players who Sono recruited and went on to play for the South African national team and European clubs include Philemon Masinga, Thomas Madigage, Helman Mkhalele, Sizwe Motaung, Mark Fish, Andrew Rabutla, and Nkosinathi Nhleko among others.
Indeed, his recruits formed the core of the South African squad that won the 1996 African Nations Cup, and Sono was also the team’s Technical Advisor during the tournament.
In 1998, Sono took up the mantle of leadership once again, as he was appointed caretaker coach of the Bafana Bafana just before the African Nations Cup tournament in Burkina Faso in the place of Clive Barker, who had been sacked just before the event. Under Sono, the team went all the way, only to lose to Egypt in the final of the tournament.
Taking into consideration the short time that Sono had to prepare with the team, picking up a runners-up medal was considered a remarkable feat for the seasoned tactician.
After a disappointing performance by the South African national squad during the 2002 African Nations Cup in Mali, Sono was again appointed a technical director to the team. However, the head coach of the team at that time, Carlos Queiróz, felt that his position was being undermined by this appointment and resigned. Sono was again appointed as caretaker coach, this time for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
Prior to the World Cup fiesta, Sono led the Bafana Bafana to win a four-nation Invitational tournament in Korea, beating Turkey in the final.
During the World Cup, the South African squad did not progress beyond the first round; however, they did score five goals and achieved one win, one draw and a 3–2 loss against pre-tournament favourites Spain.
The South African captain, Lucas Radebe, credited Sono with much of the team’s performance, saying that he had instilled a good spirit within the team and that he had ensured a very positive atmosphere among the squad.
For the records, Sono is the longest-serving coach in the history of South African domestic football, and not only has he built a strong reputation as a successful talent scout, he makes substantial profit by developing players and selling them to European teams. He also owns a number of businesses and is a chairman of numerous companies.