Michaelson Ntokozo Gumede

By Ntokozo Gumede


Jomo Sono’s ‘snakes and ladders’ theory of survival 

Sono says he has no particular winning formulae but he handles his campaigns in a snakes and ladders manner

You usually find it in the street corners where gamblers make their money and sometimes it you come across it in social settings and it is even available on smart devices. The game of snakes and ladders is one that transcends through generations.

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While it may just be a game for most, it is a way of life for South African football legend, Jomo Somo, who heads up the role of being chairman and head coach of his football club Jomo Cosmos.

The “Black Prince” has been rolling the dice for a couple of seasons now and is hoping to return to the elite division where his side was last relegated during the 2015/16 season. Sono says he has no particular winning formulae but he handles his campaigns in a snakes and ladders manner – rolling the dice and hoping to avoid the big snakes and climb up the ladder.

“I actually call it the Jomo snakes and ladder. I am going to play the snakes and ladder game again this season,” Sono told Phakaaathi.

“It teaches you about life, I look at the snakes and ladders game as my life because you can go up and come down. You get a ladder that will take you high up, or one that will just elevate you a bit and sometimes you get a snake that will take you all the way down and then you start again.

“If you fail matric today, don’t stop, life is not about stopping, you will stop only when you are dead. Some people ask me when am I going to stop coaching. Why should I stop? Imagine if I ask someone when they are going to stop doing what they love, I will only stop when I am dead,” said Sono.

He continued: “One thing we must understand is that we are all going to fail in life… we will fail 10 times and rise one time. All coaches in the world have failed and all players in the world have failed and most of them are failing but they try again but the problem with us is that we fail once and then we say no, we are giving up. How many times have business people failed? Failure is not the end of the world.”

Last season Cosmos were lingering at the tail of the GladAfrica Championship table where, at some point, they were as good as gone, but they somehow managed to throw the dice and survived the axe. Ezenkosi picked up 11 golden points from their final six games last season and finished the season on position 13.

“We were not expected to survive, we were at the bottom for a long time but we made it, we did not give up, we kept on rolling the dice at number 14 the whole season. People were already writing the obituary for Cosmos but my mentality is like snakes and ladder, I am going out there again to play and keep rolling the dice.

“On record, there is no team that has been relegated from South Africa’s top flight more times than Cosmos, four times. Equally so, Ezenkosi have probably been promoted more times to the premium league than any other team as they climbed up the ladder about three times.

“For me that snake that takes you all the way to the bottom is the snake that kept relegating Cosmos from the top to the GladAfrica Championship. But we throw the dice and we play again. We survived in the bubble with five points and at that point we were swallowed by the big snake, so to speak,” Sono explained.

He added: “Life is like snakes and ladders. It is not just about throwing the dice. The person who created snakes and ladders was a genius because that game shows you about life. You get those snakes that take you all the way down and the ladders that take you up… that is life. You play until you get to 100, sometimes when you are close to 100 the snake takes you all the way down.”

Cosmos will resume their GladAfrica Championship campaign with a trip to the Mother City to take on Steenberg United as Ezenkosi currently sit on position five on the log after as many games.

Sono did not want to be drawn into whether he will be challenging for top honours this season but insisted that his side intend to be competitive from the start to the end.

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