Monday, 2 April 2012

Given the choice between Palacios, Vermezovic and Komphela, who would you choose?

The biggest question in South African football is the simplest one of all: presented with Vladimir Vermezovic, Augusto Palacios and Steve Komphela, who would YOU choose to coach your football club?
Not difficult is it? Kaizer Chiefs boss VV isn’t that bad. He produces answers we can understand without sub-titles, though the Serbian has yet to explain satisfactorily the curious absence of midfielder Tinashe Nengomasha in recent weeks, following an alleged training-ground bust-up.
Lehlohonolo Majoro's four-goal Nedbank Cup blitz against the Leopards at the weekend certainly did VV no harm. The lad with "balz" now has eight goals in seven games and may just turn things around for the patient Amakhosi millions.
Palacios, the Peruvian caretaker at Orlando Pirates, remains difficult to read or listen to. His tactical decisions in the Buccaneers’ 2-1 extra-time Nedbank Cup defeat against Komphela’s Free State Stars were hard to fathom, just like those of his suspended Brazilian predecessor Julio Leal. He gained measure of revenge in the League game against Komphela’s men, but I’m still not convinced.
And then we have Komphela and his little Stars of Bethlehem. Not only has the former Amakhosi midfielder produced a multi-national company to be proud of in South Africa’s remote “House of Bread”, he also gives a cracking interview – and was able to raise his shell-shocked troops to victory in extra-time after the late, late equaliser from Daine Klaite last week.
The Nedbank Cup quarter-final against Kaizer Chiefs now looms for “Ea Lla Kotto” (Basotho for ”fight to the end”) and even a possible title tilt, though the three Soweto giants – never forget Moroka Swallows - and Johan Neeskens’ currently impregnable Sundowns stand firmly in their way.
The point is this: With Palacios is temporary charge at Pirates and VV under huge pressure at Chiefs, surely Komphela should be the coach of choice for Irvin Khoza and Kaizer Motaung, South Africa’s footballing king-makers?
It’s not like this is a new story. Google “Neal Collins Free State Stars” and you’ll find, my pre-Christmas epic which wrapped up and presented Komphela’s men, including Zambia’s Afcon winning goalkeeper Kennedy Mweena and top-scorer Edward Manqela two weeks before Santa popped down the chimney.
Curiously, Kaizer and his son Bobby have emphatically denied any link between their family business and Komphela, who served under Bafana Bafana boss Palacios a full 20 years ago.
All the talk is of Bloemfontein Celtic coach Clinton Larsen or Germany’s 1990 World Cup-winning captain Lothar Mathaus heading for the big time, with former Pirates’ treble-winning boss Ruud Krol waiting in the wings with his notebook and pen resplendent at so many SAPL matches this season.
Madness. In a nation crying out for local coaches of quality at all levels, Komphela, who played 24 times for South Africa in a playing career which covered Chiefs, Stars and two stints in Turkey, stands out like a sore but prominent thumb.
His post-match interview on Saturday was a thing of beauty, as it so often is with the philosophical Komphela.
He generously paid tribute to the Buccaneers who walked the plank in a cup competition for the first time since 2010, saying: “There was a moment when I felt that it was not meant to be our night (that was probably in the inexplicable 5th minute of injury time when Klaite’s free-kick found a route past the miserly Mweene) but my players showed great fighting spirit.
“We knew the Pirates profile. We knew they were dangerous. My team’s performance was close to perfection. It had to be.”
Despite a subsequent Rantie/McCarthy inspired defeat on the cabbage patch that is the Orlando Stadium, Komphela remains an over-achiever this season.
As for his relationship with then-national boss Palacios in 1992, Khompela grinned: “I remember well how Augusto made me captain of the national team. It was Palacios who introduced me to leadership – so it was interesting to achieve victory against my leader, my mentor, my coach.
“Augusto came up to me before he game and said: ‘We have to kill each other today,’ but no son can be happy murdering his father. We just scored beautiful goals.”
Read it carefully. This man Khomphela has the verbal acumen of Tottenham’s Harry Redknapp and, arguably, the recuperational skills of Sunderland’s Martin O’Neill. Give him the longevity in management offered to Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, and South Africa will have a coach to conjure with.

Amazulu (my choice) v Santos
Kaizer Chiefs v Free State Stars
SuperSport United v Jomo Cosmos
Mamelodi Sundowns v Maritzburg United

This column first appeared in A newspaper well worth a read… my column Neal and Pray appears every Tuesday… and it’s only R3.50!

1 comment:

  1. Give the choice, i would, without any hesitation go for Khompela. Reason being, i believe that he understands the culture of our (Kaizer Chiefs) football, having played there himself. What i also admire about him is that he has an eye for talent.