AUGUSTO PALACIOS issued this immortal line within 24 hours
of being put back in charge of South African champions Orlando Pirates: “I will
take things one game at a time, but I will make mistakes.”
|Look at me! Palacios on a visit to Old Trafford this year|
And Njenje, who showed no signs of living up to a CV which includes Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs, promptly make a series of massive blunders on Wednesday night.
While suspended coach Julio “I can’t see a way forward” Leal presumably watched on television, the bumbling Buccaneers slumped to a 3-0 defeat against lowly Santos.
They had no spark, no life, no shape. Benni McCarthy, so often left on the bench by Leal, started but was jerked off after an hour with the score at 2-0.
And with the Soweto derby looming – all 90,000 tickets have been sold for World Cup final venue Soccer City on Saturday – the Cape Town chapter of the Ghost sloped away into the night, fearing the worst.
Palacios, the 60-year-old who is apparently addicted to coaching football at Africa’s tip, appears unruffled by a shocking reverse in Athlone.
This was the man who promised us instant attacking football, utter transformation of the Buccaneers who have carried off every major domestic trophy in South Africa over the last 12 months.
But no, instead we got nothing, zilch, niks, nada. While Chelsea, also under caretaker management, have come out with all guns blazing since the departure of much-maligned coach Andre Villas Boas, Leal’s suspension offered no “bouncebackability” factor whatsoever.
While the London Blues under Roberto di Matteo crushed Napoli 4-1, the Bucs barely threatened the giant Gambian goalkeeper Pa Dembo Touray.
Which leaves the black-and-white clad Ghost heading for Saturday with a distinctly haunted look. Palacios looked surprisingly upbeat after his dismal start, saying: “The early goal was a big blow and we did not take our chances.
“There were defensive mistakes, like giving opponents too much space, and these must be corrected urgently.”
But he stubbornly insists: "We will be ready for Chiefs. They beat us 2-1 in the first round and we are ready to avenge that defeat.”
But of course, they’re not ready. How could they be when they disposed of their Brazilian coach less than a week before a derby which will empty the streets of this football-mad nation?
Palacios rambles away: “We are all professionals and we have to respect one another for all of us to succeed at Pirates. I reminded the players that I expect discipline from them to protect the brand and help Orlando Pirates win both the Nedbank Cup and the League.”
Going in to the game, there was such optimism. With the Telkom Knock-out and MTN Super8 trophies already added by Leal to the treble they won under Dutchman Ruud Krol last season, Pirates were third in the table and had seen leaders Sundowns slip up in a 1-1 draw against Wits on Tuesday night.
Wins over Santos and Chiefs would have put them top, with Sundowns to come next Tuesday. All to play for.
Palacios appeared confident, eager to work with the remnants of Leal’s coaching staff: “I can only appeal to the Pirates fans for support to take this club where it belongs. I have worked with Tebogo Moloi before and Willie Okpara has been with Pirates for a long time. I am happy to be working with them again.”
But it was all just hot air. Something Palacios is adept at producing.
If you look back two weeks when the Leal crisis began to emerge (see http://www.neal-collins.blogspot.com/2012/02/revolting-buccaneers-threaten-to-sink.html) I was told Moloi would take over when Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza finally wielded his iron fist.
But no, instead the Buccaneers find themselves landed with a Peruvian who offers an internet site where he promises to promote four players a year from his personal academy on to the famous Orlando Pirates ship.
The man has not been involved in the day-to-day running of the side. He spent most of his time promoting his own youth set-up in Arthur Block Park in Mayfair, finding young players and promising them the world.
On his error-strewn website, beneath a picture of a young Augusto in military uniform, he tells aspirant youngsters: “I which to show to you different aspects of my life in football. My experience in football dates as back as many years. I travelled throughout the world because of my passion for this sport, and I must say that I am very humbled to have gained the recognition and appreciation from all those who love football.”
So who is Palacios? Like so many foreign coaches in Africa, he remains a complicated blend of self-promotion and vague history. Wikipedia don’t list him. Despite his term as an international boss, there is no listing for international appearances or honours won anywhere on the internet – apart from where he himself has listed them.
Should men like these coach top African football sides while great former professionals languish penniless in retirement?
I predict Saturday will be a huge disappointment. Both Palacios and Kaizer Chiefs’ Serbian boss Vladimir Vermezovic are under huge pressure. They will be scared to lose rather than eager to triumph. They will pack Soccer City with defensive midfielders, and 90,000 fans will witness yawn-a-minute football.
Of course, if Palacios rouses his over-paid Pirates to a win over Chiefs on Saturday, everyone will be backing the pensioner from Peru who coached Bafana way back in the early 90s and hasn’t been in charge of a major team for a decade.
But me? I’ll carry on wondering why he got the nod when treble-winning Ruud Krol and Germany’s 1990 World Cup winning captain Lothar Mathaus lurk on the periphery.
And I’ll remain convinced that former South African greats like Lucas Radebe and Philemon Masinga, not to mention Pirates current 34-year-old veteran Benni McCarthy, should be encouraged to coach when their careers dwindle to a close.
Oh, here’s a full list of Palacios’ qualifications, as listed, with plenty of errors, on the website http://www.augustopalacios.co.za/profile.html:
- ANEF (Association National Coaches Football) Lima- Peru
- Costa Rica, Education Recreation of Football Sport Institute.
- Advance Course Professional Sport Medicine and sport seminary
- Goalkeeper coaching Clinic Peru
- Titular Diploma professional Football Coach Federation Peruvian of Football 2005.
- Licence of Professional football coach Licence “A” Licence No.DT00712005-FPF 2005.
- Category “A” Federation Peruvian Football.
- Certificated of participated Federation Peruvian of Football of the course of for the high levelcompetition performance
pedagogy 40 hours 2005
- International Coaching course- with good results. Germany Federation DFB 2000.
- Certificated attendance FUTURO I FIFA Coca-Cola Development programme Johannesburg South Africa November 1993
(I was coordinated of the course)
- Certificated attendance FUTURO II FIFA Coaching Course November 2000 Vanderbiljpark - South Africa
- Certificated attendance FUTURO III FIFA Coaching course October 2004 Maseru Lesotho
- Certificated attendance FUTURO refreshers’ course of Coaching Instructor November 2006 Maputo Mozambique.
- Certificated Partuicpated FIFA Goalkeeping Instructors seminar Sthwane /Pretoria 2011 South Africa