Sunday, 2 February 2014

Inside story: the curious tale of Bafana Bafana, Carlos Queiroz, Roger de Sa and Gordon Igesund

Job swap? Gordon Igesund and
Pirates ex-boss Roger De Sa
Roger and out. To some Orlando Pirates, that news came as a blessing. Brighter Buccaneers know full well it could prove to be DeSasterous.

The minute Roger de Sa livened up transfer deadline day with his resignation just minutes after the window creaked shut on Friday night, I tweeted exactly what I believe to be true: That the Mozambique-born former Bafana goalkeeper is all set to join Carlos Queiroz in the Bafana Bafana set-up after the World Cup in Brazil.

With Gordon Igesund yet to submit his CHAN report to SAFA’s technical committee that may have appeared a little premature. Gordon’s contract runs until July, a lot of people think Igesund deserves more time.

But the hand had been forced. In the Sunday Times, Roger said: “Right now my batteries are flat. I had a heart-to-heart with Dr Irvin Khoza (the Pirates chairman) and told him I was battling to motivate myself in the morning.

“I said I wanna go. He was quite surprised. But I told him I couldn’t give 100 percent. It’s not good for me, for you, the club or the fans.”

With that, Roger was gone. But he can go with his head held high. When he took over from Augusto “Bad Back” Palacios last season, Pirates were 10th in the PSL. They ended third and he leaves with a remarkable record of reaching three successive cup finals. With Eric Tinkler in the caretaker role, Pirates could yet reach third when they’ve caught up with the rest.

True, he lost the Champions League, MTN8 and Telkom Knock-out at the final hurdles, but he did bring in R13.7m in the process. And most of the players, for all the “sinister” forces at work in the club, had good things to say about Roger’s reign.

The truth is, Pirates had a Belgian coach with African experience (I won’t name him), living in the Protea Wanderers hotel for weeks last year waiting for De Sa to slip up in the African Champions League.  He didn’t. He produced miracles at TP Mazembe and in the group stages to keep his side in the running against all expectations.

And throughout his reign, De Sa had to put up with interference from Stanley “Screamer” Tshabalala, Khoza, Floyd Mbele and several others on matters of team selection and tactics before, during and after vital games. Ask Lucky Lekgwathi, Fatau Dauda and Tlou Segolela about the chaos behind the scenes.

It had to come to an end. Roger’s patience had been tried to the limit, and he was pelted by missiles when Pirates drew with AmaZulu last month.

But relief was at hand. A couple of weeks ago I heard (from an impeccable source) Carlos Queiroz had approached Pirates, asking if Roger, 49, could assist him during Iran’s World Cup quest in Brazil later this year. Roger’s late dad Octavio knew Queiroz, 60, and the pair worked together before, both during Queiroz’s previous Bafana reign (2000-2002, played 20, lost four) and with Portugal at the World Cup here in 2010.

Despite insults and denials on my twitter time-line, Pirates fans woke up on Sunday morning with the newspapers echoing my tweets: Roger did not simply leave because he was weary at Pirates, he left because he has exciting new opportunities ahead.

Cape Town is not one of them. Yet. Ajax Amsterdam insist they have not even spoken to De Sa, though most of the football media put together Muhsin Etrugral’s recent departure with De Sa’s resignation to make a phantom marriage of convenience.

Etrugral, returning to Turkey following a bereavement, was quoted yesterday saying: "I have not spoken to anybody from Pirates. I'm flying to Istanbul to sort out some family matters."

Nothing is set in stone yet. It could be that Ajax, with backing from Amsterdam, could yet go for Roger. It’s possible Igesund could talk his way out of trouble when he tries to justify his CHAN disaster this week. The exchange rate will make it difficult for SAFA to pay Queiroz the required salary – he’s on R22m a year with Iran.

But ultimately, I believe Roger and Carlos (both born in Mozambique) will be in charge of South Africa after doing the World Cup together with Iran later this year. I think Gordon will be sacked – and rightly so – and he could even go to Orlando Pirates next, given his agent Mike Makaab’s relationship with Dr Khoza.

Sadly, none of the principle characters involved can confirm or deny much of these details as there is too much at stake. South African football thrives on secrecy and back-stabbing. Any conversations right now are strictly off the record, nothing can be said out loud for fear of upsetting Dr Khoza, Makaab, SAFA or Igesund.

But I for one would be more than happy for South Africa to begin their post-CHAN recovery in July with Queiroz and De Sa running the show for Bafana in their new Nike kit. In the meantime, Shakes Mashaba (or Igesund if he insists on working out his contract) will take charge for pre-World Cup friendlies against Brazil and other heavyweights.

But remember, South Africa will not be in Brazil later this year. Iran and Queiroz will. And we all know why.

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  1. Here we are once again speculating about who is suitable to coach Bafana after Igesund is shown the door. While this are exciting times, I find one thing always disturbing about South Africans, shot memories. When Igesund was touted for the Bafana job, the word was he was multiple championship winning coach and therefore suitable. No one cared to remember that he was also an advocate of skop,, skiet and donner football, who left both Pirates and Sundowns under a cloud because of his coaching methods, which are less than optimal for SA players. His record in knockout competitions which form a large part of international football is also dismal (Top8 trophy against Ajax while at Pirates). Steve Komphela was also SAFA's and the media's favourite to take over from Pitso. Yet poor Steve has never won anything in his adult life. His record at under 23 was disastrous. All of a sudden Shakes' name is also mentioned among favourites because his hurriedly assembled under20 won a tournament in Lesotho and his under23 beat Brazil in 2000. Winning a Cosafa tournament is somehow enough to qualify for the Bafana job. By the way who coached in our last failed attempt at the Olympics. True enough Shakes qualified for 2000 Olympics but why do we forget the amount of work that was put into scouting that team in the first place. Anybody remember Sasol Vision 2000. Who was SA Director of football at that stage? What about the fact that Shakes failed to qualify into the next round of that tournament because he kept chopping and changing the very team that beat Brazil? Carlos Queiroz had his chance with Bafana. Need I remind that Bafana were headed for a disaster in Mali under his stewardship failing to score a goal in the first two games of the tournament then qualifying into the next round courtesy of a timid and disjointed performance by the ever under performing Morocco. To confirm there Bafana were in that tournament to make the numbers they then bombed out of Mali in the next game. How do we forget so easily. Common guys, when was the last time we won the AFCON? Who was the coach? Why doesn't he get mention? Queiroz is supposedly retracing the steps into the past, if that is the case then why don't we retrace steps to period where we actually won something.

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