• Samuel Strous

COACH: THE LIFE & TIMES OF CLIVE BARKER

In Conversation with Clive Barker & Michael Marnewick

Business Evolution Africa's Samuel Strous in Conversation with Michael Marnewick & Clive Barker

BEA: How can we sum up Clive's leadership philosophy? MICHAEL: It would appear to be dichotomous, but Clive’s philosophy is one of hard work mixed with fun. If a player messed up a training move, he would tell the player to step aside and personally show him how it was done - even with his dodgy knees! He always felt that training sessions should be enjoyable and if you ask any his players, they will certainly attest to that.

Clive understood that the huge pressure that came with high profile games was unavoidable and he believed that the ability for players to 'switch on' on the field and then 'switch off' after either a triumph or a loss was invaluable. An example of this would be the heavily-publicised (“Team Parties After Losing”) gathering he orchestrated in the hotel pub after a dissapointing African Cup of Nations loss. He knew it would be in all the papers but understood that there needed to be a release of pressure and a reset before training recommenced.

BEA: For a time Clive was the only white coach in black townships, how was he able to be such a profound unifying force in spite of the racial divides that marked the 70s, 80s and 90s soccer arena?

MICHAEL: Clive never saw race. His only criterion was footballing ability. It didn’t matter what colour you were. Simply that you were a good player and willing to do the hard yards. He was loved- worshipped even, in the townships because all he cared for was football and his footballers. Sport Unites (as Nelson Mandela so famously said) and Clive understood this. His players will say that there weren’t Black or White or Coloured players in his teams. There were South Africans.

He understood the pressure on the Bafana team going into the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, given the Springboks’ success the previous year in the Rugby World Cup. Black South Africans had rallied behind an almost all-White rugby team and this was an opportunity to repay them. History will record that all South Africans got behind Bafana in 1996 and the Rainbow Nation was well and truly real.

"History will record that all South Africans got behind Bafana in 1996 and the Rainbow Nation was well & truly real."

BEA: Who have been Clive's greatest influences?

MICHAEL: For Clive, the release of Nelson Mandela from prison was a dream come true. When Madiba starting taking an interest in the team, visiting them and inspiring them, he took on legendary status. He was the “12th man” on the day of the Africa Cup of Nations and like the Springboks the year before, provided the magic on those auspicious sporting occasions.

Clive does not possess an Africa Cup of Nations Winner’s Medal; he gave his to Madiba.

Clive respected many people, but the opinions of his family were always valued. The family of four (Clive, Yvonne and sons John and Gavin) would visit a local restaurant and Clive would talk to them about plans. Although the rest of the family may have contributed thoughts and suggestions, the firmly-held belief is that Clive had already made up his mind before they had even arrived at the restaurant!

Also, George Barrett - for the way he played, the good example he set and his mentorship of Clive and Sugar Ray Zulu - for the respect he commanded, his talent and the way he conducted himself, on and off the field of play.

BEA: In his capacity as arguably the most successful national coach our country has seen, what was Clive uniquely able to bring the role that his successors have struggled to?

MICHAEL: When Clive was coach and at the height of Bafana’s successes, we were a top 20 ranked country and the best in Africa. We are currently 71st. What Clive was able to do was to blend the audacious skill and flair of South American football with precision and patience of European football. He understood that copying Brazil or Germany or England would never enable the team to compete successfully against those countries, but he knew he had the players in the various positions who would contribute to a style that enjoyed success. By playing teams like England, Germany, Brazil and Argentina, and getting results, he was upskilling the team to not only play, but also compete against the best in the world.

BEA: Clive begun his career when the odds were stacked against him, unable to afford basic resources and having experienced many failures early on. What provided him with the grit and determination to persevere in light of these challenges?

MICHAEL: It may have been something as simple as watching the sheriff of the court remove his furniture from his home when he faced bankruptcy in a failed business, but even then, his determination to succeed proved the catalyst to recovery and then to the greatest football coach in South Africa’s history. He always stood up for his players and gained their trust and admiration, and most will say Clive was a father-figure to them. Although he demanded a lot of his players, he engendered respect and love to the extent that they would have run through brick walls for him. His grit and determination is an inherent personality trait driven by his passion for and love of football.


Interview by: Samuel Strous, Business Evolution Africa

In Conversations with Michael Marnewick & Clive Barker