|Big job: Roger de Sa, the new Orlando Pirates boss|
Benni McCarthy’s response to the Roger de Sa appointment was exactly what chairman Irvin Khoza would have hoped for.
He replied to my twittered concerns over last season’s Telkom Knock-Out final rift in public saying: “Cool, Calm and Collective. I wanna continue winning things wit Pirates so have to play it cool.”
McCarthy, out for six weeks with a hamstring injury sustained in his 10-minute appearance for Bafana in their 1-0 loss in Brazil on Friday, also found time to reassure an anxious Ghost on Twitter.
I’ve sorted some of the twitterisms, but here’s what South Africa’s record goal-scorer had to say: “Hope we can win more trophies and conquer Africa with Roger de Sa. I'll make sure the coach gets the very best from everyone in the team.
“Wow, if you think the appointment of our new coach will end my career! I've got God on my side. We the players will work hard to make life pleasant for the fans and help the new coach settle in good.
“The rift with Roger ended after the Telkom Knock-out final, which we won (smile). It’s gone and forgotten, now we must work as a team to see what we can win together.
“Coach Palacios brought the best out of the team in difficult times. Give credit where its due.
“I seriously have no clue what the reasons were (behind yesterday’s announcement). The coach was struggling with his back for a while though.”
And he told his 30,725 followers: “Thanks for the get well wishes I'll be back soon, fitter and stronger most definitely.”
But Benni alone cannot ease the fears raised by De Sa’s appointment, confirmed to me by Khotso "Nic" Ditshego this morning an hour before the "high noon" press conference. The Iron Duke has now employed four coaches in two seasons – but his Buccaneers have plundered six trophies in that time, including two PSL tiles.
With the ghost of Ruud Krol still hanging over the Pirates, Brazilian Julio Leal and Peruvian caretaker Augusto Palacios failed to thrive at a sometimes violent Orlando Stadium.
Now along comes De Sa, who famously accused McCarthy of being “paid by the kilogram” when Pirates beat Wits in last season’s Telkom finale. McCarthy said afterwards that De Sa and his assistant Eric Tinkler were “dead to him” but both parties appear to be willing to work on their relationship.
It’s another relationship – De Sa’s break-up with his former partner Nicole Henderson – which stirs further controversy.
Last July, as Wits tumbled down the PSL table, the Randburg Magistrates Court heard how De Sa “harassed and threatened” Henderson and her new boyfriend Deon van Rensburg with violence. In court documents, Henderson and Van Rensburg went into detail how the former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper sent them abusive SMSes.
A month before, De Sa had been slapped with a protection order which instructed him not to “assault, threaten, harass, intimidate, verbally or physically abuse” the mother of his two chidren.
But Henderson told the court: "Roger tracks me down. I am not sure if I am being followed. He is mentally abusing me with ugly words.
"If he knows we are together, it goes on through the night. He is threatening to beat up my boyfriend. He told my kids he has a baseball bat and gun in his car. He has threatened to give me a hiding too.
"I don't think he is mentally stable at the moment and I am scared of what he might do. He is completely acting out of character, almost psychotic."
Van Rensburg, a Free State-based businessman, also sought help from the North Gauteng High Court last May to control De Sa’s post-relationship depression.
Van Rensburg showed the court De Sa’s text messages which read: "Hey fat p***sy! Come visit and face me man to man. Coward!; Always know where u r. U don't come to me. I will to u. F****d my family. U gonna pay. Hope u coming to Jhb! So we meet. Still running?; Next time I see u! U know. Be ready and be a man. If it takes 10 yrs. Its on. G Night Babe. XXX"
Henderson’s representative told the court: "According to Henderson the First Respondent (De Sa) was involved in numerous relationships with other women while he was also involved in the relationship with her. His tendency for affairs led to tension. They had regular fallouts. She told me she had left him in May 2011 ..."
In turn, Da Sa insisted: "I do not have a firearm and am not in possession of any firearms. It is the applicant who has a firearm that is not licensed, being a small pistol.
"I always have a baseball bat in my car, which is usually under my seat, for protection.”
"I deny that I am not mentally stable. I find it strange that the applicant, as a hairdresser, has the qualification to make any verdict on my mental health.”
After two spells in charge of Wits lasting nearly 10 years, De Sa was fired by Wits on July 9 last year. He insisted: “No, I was not fired because of those reports. They have been one-sided and my side of the story has not been heard so I would not like to dwell much on them.”
Maputo-born Rogério Paulo Cesar De Sá, who guided Wits to the Nedbank Cup in 2010 and represented South Africa as a footballer and basketballer, is no shrinking violet.
Now 47, Roger’s dad Octávio Augusto César De Sá (1935–1990), played in goal for Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon between 1956 and 1960 before moving to Mozambique. Roger arrived in South Africa in 1974, aged 10.
De Sa played for – and captained - Moroka Swallows and Mamelodi Sundowns – and was in the 1996 African Nations Cup winning squad, though he won only one cap for Bafana Bafana.
De Sa started coaching Bidvest Wits towards the end of his playing career in 2001, aged 37 and was named PSL Coach of the Season in 2002–03. He rejoined The Students in June 2007, after two years in charge at Cape Town club Santos.
De Sa, who also acted as Bafana Bafana’s goalkeeping coach under Carlos Queiroz, said yesterday: “This has to be the right time as I had years ago contacted the chairman for this job to no avail. When I got the chairman's call I was obviously delighted as I believe I am up to the task at hand.”
The resignation of Augusto Palacios, who was only confirmed in the permanent coaching role at the start of the season after winning the PSL title as a caretaker last term, was not unexpected.
After four games without a goal and emphatic 3-0 defeats against SuperSport United and Moroka Swallows at a grumbling Orlando Stadium, chairman Khoza’s statement read: “Augusto Palacios has had to step aside as a result of a persistent back problem that resulted in hospitalisation last week.
“Augusto Palacios will revert to his position in the development structures of Orlando Pirates Football Club with due consideration to his recovery which is expected to take several months after undergoing major spinal surgery.
“Roger is a team player who has worked in various capacities for our senior and junior national teams including being roped in to the technical team of the Portuguese national team during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
“I have no doubt that he will find the new challenge at Orlando Pirates a worthwhile enhancement to his career.”
De Sa will take charge for the first time against Platinum Stars on September 18 and you have to wish the man luck. Clearly Roger and his family have had a tough year, but – like Stuart Baxter at Kaizer Chiefs – he claims he is up to coaching one of the nation’s biggest sides despite his personal ups and downs.
Just how he will cope with the egos in the squad and the passion of the fans is hard to say. The pressures at Wit and Santos were nothing compared to the stress of leading the Buccaneers. He’ll need all the luck he can get.