ON the South African “who’s who” website Dominic Buti Ntsele, born on October 30, 1966, is listed thus: “He has handled some of the toughest corporate crises and issues in South Africa and the US. He is a communications strategist.”
Yet again this week, Dom found out that corporate crises are nothing compared to sorting out a football club.
Though Mr Ntsele is listed as having several high-powered executive roles, it’s his position as a director of Orlando Pirates FC which has seen him come under fire the day after the Buccaneers finally parted company with Brazilian coach Julio Leal.
The problem is this: Dom went on the excellent Robert Marawa show on MetroFM on Monday night and assured listeners: “Leal did not receive a pay-off for leaving Orlando Pirates after seven months of his three-year contract.”
And on Tuesday morning, The New Age’s equally excellent Patrick Baloyi grabbed the front page rather than the back to tell readers: “Leal departs R2m richer.”
Baloyi reports an unnamed director as saying: “Leal is legally sharp and would not have left Orlando without a fight.”
The unloved Brazilian, suspended last month when he said he “couldn’t see a way forward”, was paid R350,000 a month. In his short seven months at the Pirates, where he surprisingly replaced treble-winning Dutchman Ruud Krol, Leal won the MTN8 and Telkom Trophies, to ensure the Buccaneers had their hand on every domestic trophy in the country.
The key to Leal’s departure came with the mounting criticism from within the camp that grew before their African Champions League opening round failure against Angola’s Recreativo do Libolo. I wrote at the time that Leal was on his way out http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2012/02/revolting-buccaneers-threaten-to-sink.html and though it was roundly denied by all – notably team spokesman and goalkeeper Monieb Josephs - it was of course true.
Since his suspension, Peruvian caretaker Augusto Palacios has seen the Pirates crash out of the Nedbank Cup but did manage to orchestrate a 3-2 win over Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Wednesday's 1-0 win over Amazulu puts them level on points with leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, who suffered a third consecutive 0-0 draw despite having 26 efforts on goal against Golden Arrows.
But on the social networking sites, the talk is of Leal’s pay-off. Did he or didn’t he? Did Ntsele, the spin doctor, lie to the fans on air?
So I called Ntsele, the master communicator. No reply. Left a message, sent a text. Then he called back.
And he couldn’t have been more certain. Ntsele told me: “In the absence of real news, fantasy and fiction seems to prevail. I can categorically tell you Leal was not paid to leave Orlando Pirates.
“The man wanted to walk away. We would not pay him to leave under those circumstances. It’s not just unlikely, it just wouldn’t happen. You are asking me for the truth, you want to tell the fans what is happening: There it is, straight from the horse’s mouth.
“I am a director of the club, I would know if we paid off Leal for the remaining two and a half years of his contract. I can categorically say we didn’t.”
So Ntsele is emphatic. But so is The New Age. The black-and-white clad Ghost are confused. But there is a solution.
The problem here seems to be the immense salary offered to Leal when he mysteriously took over from the record-breakingly successful Krol.
Ntsele admits there is a question over the remaining five months’ money paid in advance to Leal – his first year’s salary in a three-year contract. Ntsele says they won’t be claiming that back. Simple mathematics will tell you five times R350,000 comes to R1,750,000. That’s pretty close to R2m.
To pay off Leal for the remainder of his contract would have amounted to far more than that, just under R10m.
With the fans baying for the truth and claiming Ntsele lied on MetroFm, it’s just possible both Baloyi and Ntsele are perfectly within their rights. No, Leal did not get paid off R9,800,000 for the rest of his contract. But yes, the over-paid Brazilian will be following his wife back to Brazil with nearly R2m after barely seven months in the job.
Oh, and on the subject of a new Pirates manager Ntsele is equally forthright. With Nigeria's Sampson Siasia being roundly touted for Leal's job, Ntsele told me this morning: "Look, we haven't even started talking about a permanent coach for next season. I can reconfirm Palacios will be in charge until the end of the season.
"Of course, Orlando Pirates is a huge club. We are being approached by all sorts of people, from all over Africa, Eastern Europe and beyond.
"You can expect agents to leak names to newspapers but we won't even be thinking about the new appointment. That's the truth."
But then there is the thorny problem, much like last season, of what happens if Palacios, against all the odds, wins the title now that he has put his trust in Tokela Rantie up front alongside Benni McCarthy, a dynamic duo which seems to work. Surely they can't get rid of the championship-winning coach two years on the trot?
Was Palacios listening when I wrote this abuot Rantie last October? http://www.neal-collins.blogspot.com/2011_10_01_archive.html