Monday, 26 March 2012

Minister of Tourism McCarthy: Now Maniche wants to come to South Africa

BENNI McCARTHY'S future seems assured. The Tourism Department will snap him up if Orlando Pirates ignore my pleas to forge him in to a future coach.
With former West Ham team-mate Luiz Boa Morte already signed up as an honorary South African after an encouraging chat with Orlando Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza, another Portugal international could soon be on his way.
Nuno Ricardo de Oliveira Ribeiro is better known as Maniche. He played with Benni in 2004 when Porto won the Champions League. And acording to The Sowetan today, Benni's had a word.
Though he didn't enjoy the Nedbank Cup defeat against the excellent Steve Komphela's Free State Stars at Orlando on Saturday, the magic McCarthy smile recovered when he revealed: "Maniche is not the only one. There are loads of professionals interested in coming to South Africa next season.
"In the past, the big stars like David Beckham and Thierry Henry have gone to finish their careers in the American MLS or the Middle East after quitting the big European Leagues.
"I can only advise, but I'm proud to hear household names want to play in our Premier League.
"The youngsters here will learn from them. Their presence in South Africa ill help improve our game and the profile of the PSL."
After a week which saw a 90,000 crowd for the Soweto derby - where McCarthy scored twice in a 3-2 win for the Pirates - plus huge crowds for their goalless draw against Sundowns at Loftus and Chiefs 2-0 Bloemfontein Celtic - Benni insists: "The PSL has a great future."
McCarthy couldn't confirm whether Maniche, who won 50 caps for Portugal and eight trophies with Porto, will join the old guard at the Buccaneers. But the former Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Dinamo Moscow, Porto and Benfica central midfielder is definitely keen to come to the tip of Africa.
McCarthy confirmed: "We had a chat with Nuno, I played with him at Porto and he is a wonderful talent. He is very keen to come and further his football career in South Africa.
"He wanted to know what it is like to play in South Africa and I just told him: It's incredible."

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Too many Chiefs for Celtic, but did VV go too far in his post-match critique?

EITHER Vladimir Vermezovic isn't very clever, or he's incredibly brave. You decide. After Kaizer Chiefs' emphatic 2-0 win over Bloemfontein Celtic last night, his frankness was almost alarming.
Despite completely outplaying a useful Celtic outfit, he felt compelled to tell the world on Supersport after the final whistle:"I am not satisfied. The biggest problem is that our guys are not killers. We missed so many chances. I mean, there were opportunities where it would have been easier to miss than to score.
"What can a coach do when they miss chances like that? Next time, those chances may be what win us the game. I am very unhappy. We missed those chances when we were 2-0 up today. But what if we miss chances when it is 0-0?
"I will talk to my players but I am not satisfied."
Fascinating. He wants a gang of killers - and you've got to wonder if he was referring to Sundowns' Katlego Mphela, the Premiership's current joint top scorer.
Personally, I thought Chiefs were dominant in every department including finishing last night. Itumeleng Khune is getting his sharpness back, they were resolute in defence and the midfield functioned well despite the continued absence of Tinashe Nengomasha, the General in the middle of the park. More about him later.
Lucky Baloyi's goal on the half-hour from 30 yards was magnificent, and Lehlohonolo Majoro made the game safe - the former Amazulu striker is looking increasingly adept.
Though Baloyi could have scored at least two more and Bernard Parker toiled in front of goal once more, it was top referee Daniel Bennett's decision not to issue Thabani Stemmer with a red card that was the real talking point.
Watching the excellent SuperSport analyst Thomas Mlambo discuss that decision - and the third minute red card which ruined Ajax Cape Town's night against Free State Stars - was entertainment enough for anybody.
The Celtic goalkeeper was well out of his box when he reached out an arm to deny Siphiwe Tashablala a clear scoring chance with no defender in the offing. Clear red card, but the usually impeccable Bennett went for yellow. Perhaps he's colour blind or somebody had shuffled his the pack of cards in his pocket.
Perhaps VV could have focused on that decision, and allowed his players the chance to bask in a comfortable victory which puts them back in contention at fourth in the Absa Premiership. But no, he preferred to lash his hapless players for their profligacy in front of goal.
Strange. I was at a packed Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday night where goal-scoring was simply not on the agenda. Bad finishing? Ask league leaders Sundowns and champions Orlando Pirates about that. With 60,000 begging for a goal on a night of amazing atmosphere, neither side was able to produce a finish in a 0-0 draw which suited the Downs more than the Buccaneers.
And how about SuperSports United? They went in to the Christmas break looking like contenders, but a distinct lack of firepower has left Gavin Hunt's side looking like desperate also-rans after another 0-0 stalemate yesterday.
Thing is, of course, Serbian struggler VV must know his players are unhappy. His bust-up with Nengomasha appears to be ongoing - originally ruled out of the Soweto derby with injury, he is now officially suspended and didn't play last night - and the past problems with ex-captain Jimmy Tau, Josta Dladla and Abia Nale are now a matter of history.
The New Age, a paper worth picking up (especially as I now have a column running in it) ran this anonymous text message from a senior Chiefs player:"We cannot stand this guy VV. He is rude and abusive and I don't understand why the management is doing nothing as they are aware of our grievances with the coach."
Three weeks ago, I was made aware of similar sentiments in the Orlando Pirates camp. I wrote all about it on this site. Just like Itumeleng Khune today, Monieb Josephs came out and said all was well between the players and the coach. Khune told today: "We laugh it off. People are trying to destabilise the club." Josephs said almost exactly that when rumours surrounded his coach. Two weeks later, Julio Leal was suspended and replaced by Augusto Palacios.
VV should tread warily. He may be going the same way. With three points in the bag last night, he may have been better off not behaving like Sir Alex Ferguson.
Fergie has his players under control. VV clearly doesn't.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Stricken Fabrice Muamba showing "small signs of improvement"

BOLTON'S Fabrice Muamba remains in hospital "but is showing small signs of improvement" after collapsing against Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Saturday - and his Wanderers team-mates will decide over the next 48 hours whether to continue their FA Cup journey without him.
According to the club, Muamba is still "critically ill in intensive care"  at the London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green after suffering what appeared to be a massive heart attack.
But his heart is now beating without the help of medication and he is also moving his arms and his legs. There are unconfirmed reports that he spoke to a friend from his hospital bed tonight.
The statement added that Muamba's long-term prognosis remains unclear and he will continue to be closely monitored. A statement release tonight at 7pm, 9pm South African time, said: "Fabrice Muamba is able to breathe without a ventilator, he has been able to recognise family members & respond to questions."
One source suggested his heart "had stopped four times" and that it took two hours to get the organ beating once more.
With the entire footballing world offering their sympathy, tomorrow's Premier League clash against Aston Villa is already postponed. Boss Owen Coyle said: "The players wouldn't be in any fit state to play. Football pales into insignificance at this time."
His captain Kevin Davies said: "Patrice is a natural athlete, box to box. There are not many stronger than him in the Premier League. He's a great lad. Hopefully, in true Bolton style, he will fight against the odds and come through."
Saturday’s match against Blackburn at the Reebok could be called off too. Rovers manager Steve Kean told the BBC: "We hope he makes a full recovery but, if they need a little bit more time and the game doesn't go ahead, we would respect that from Bolton's point of view.”
According to The Sun this morning, Bolton are considering withdrawing for the FA Cup altogether, even though a semi-final appearance – against Chelsea, if they were to beat Spurs in a replay - would be a rarity for the Lancashire club. Reports suggest the players are divided. Some want to play and win as a tribute to Muamba while others simply don’t want to return to the scene of his heart-rending collapse.
World Cup final referee Howard Webb reacted swiftly to the incident on Saturday, calling the game off after 41 minutes as a crowd of medics and physios attempted for six minutes to resuscitate the midfielder capped 33 times by England’s Under 21 boss Stuart Pearce.
Spurs star Rafael van der Vaart, visibly distressed and close to tears when Muamba fell to the floor, tweeted: "Terrible what happened to Fabrice during the game. We're all praying for him.
 "He just fell on the ground and it look like he died. They got him back but then he faded away again.... it was very quiet in the dressing room afterwards"
Injured Bolton team-mate Stuart Holden added: "Praying for you Fab. Waiting anxiously for updates. Fab is a fighter!"
At the age of just 23, the man born in Kinshasa is not the first to collapse on the field of play. Over 30 have died since 2003 when Cameroon’s Marc Vivien Foe collapsed in France and died from what was later diagnosed as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Today a new hero emerged when I became apparent that a Dr Andrew Deaner – a Spurs fans watching in the stands - ran on to the pitch and began treating Muamba with the medical staff at Spurs. Dr Deaner is a consultant cardiologist at the London Chest Hospital.
Muamba was rushed to the hospital with his coach Coyle and captain Davies alongside him in the ambulance. His condition is now listed as stable, though onlookers say “he was not breathing”. One said: "He didn't even put his hands out when he fell".
Muamba went down with “nobody near him” four minutes before half-time with the score locked at 1-1. A defibrilitor was used in an attempt to revive Muamba on the field, while one medic tried to administer mouth-to-mouth.
Fans from both sides stood and chanted Muamba’s name as he was carried off on a stretcher, still having his chest pumped, and Twitter was immediately awash with well-wishers, from Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand to former team-mate Jack Wilshere.
Spurs fan Terry Hunt, who witnessed the incident, said: “Muamba just collapsed. When he went down all the players immediately realised it was a serious problem. There was an eery silence around the ground. The medics did all they possibly could to bring him around.
“There was no appetite to continue the game. The medical teams were superb. We just hope the guy pulls through. It’s such a tragedy for one so young. I feel for his family. For Bolton Wanderers.
“On the train going home, everyone just wanted to know how he was doing.”
Muamba came to England as an 11-year-old after his father left what was then Zaire as a refugee after an uncle had been murdered. He was spotted by Arsene Wenger within a year and spent four years with Liam Brady in the Arsenal academy.
He was a bright lad too, gaining three A levels at Kelmscott School in north London despite being unable to speak English when he arrived in the country. Though he didn't break in to the Arsenal first team, he successfully moved to Birmingham City and then Bolton after he gained citizenship. He has played for England at every level from Under 16 to Under 21 with a total of 57 caps at all levels.
England international Jack Wilshere, who played on loan with Muamba at Bolton, tweeted: "Hope Muamba is okay. Thoughts with him."
Middlesbrough defender Justin Hoyte, who played in the Arsenal youth team with Muamba, said: "I seriously hope my best friend in football is OK. Stay strong bro please please stay strong. God is with you, remember that."
Shauna Muganda, 27, mother of Fabrice's three-year-old son Joshua, is at his bedside with parents Marcel and Gertude and told The Sun this morning: "God is in control."

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Soweto derby special: Palacios promised he'd make mistakes. He already has.

Look at me! Palacios on a visit to Old Trafford this year
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.”
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 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

-  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

Monday, 12 March 2012

Orlando Pirates suspend Julio Leal: is it time for coach McCarthy?

Lend me you Buccaneers: Julio Leal and Benni McCarthy

READERS of this blog won’t be surprised to hear it, but the uninformed will be amazed to hear that Orlando Pirates’ Brazilian coach Julio Leal has been suspended today, pending an investigation.
With the Kaizer Chiefs showdown looming in Soweto on Saturday, the Iron Duke has shown his steel.
Back on Tuesday, February 28, I wrote this piece headlined “Revolting Buccaneers threaten to sink Brazilian boss Leal”. Last week, after repeated denials from Leal, his goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs and all sorts of Buccaneering types, I wrote which suggested chairman Irvin Khoza, the Iron Duke, would follow the example set by Chelsea and sack his coach under pressure from his senior players, namely one Benni McCarthy.
Again, all sorts of denials. He’s won two trophies already this season, said the non-believers. They’re still in contention for the League despite that embarrassing African Champions League exit in Angola. They didn’t sparkle in their Nedbank Cup clash with Third Division minnows Ethekwini Coastal over the weekend but they won 1-0. No need to panic.
But there was. Just like Andre Villas Boas at Chelsea when Frank Lampard went public with his dissatisfaction, Leal was on his way out from the moment the Pirates players got together a fortnight ago to tell chairman Khoza they wanted the ineffectual Brazilian OUT.
Why do you think 34-year-old McCarthy started the game in Umlazi on Saturday? Because Leal had suddenly seen the light or because he felt threatened by the former Blackburn Rovers and West Ham striker?
Today, the full text of Orlando Pirates’ official statement reads:  “Orlando Pirates Football Club has with immediate effect suspended the coach, Mr Julio Cesar Leal, as the club embarks on a fact finding investigation into reasons why, during performance evaluation sessions, the coach expressed that “he could not see his way forward” and offered the chairman “to do what is right for the club”.
“Augusto Palacios, Technical Director of Development will assume the role of head coach. The rest of the technical team stays the same.”
That’s not quite as bad as what’s happened at Platinum Stars, where coach Owen Da Gama has been suspended pending an investigation in to players having to pay their boss R5,000 to play in the first team. But it’s just as final.
Leal will not be back.
As Pirates wait for today’s Nedbank Cup last 16 draw and send out Sifiso Myene for a reserve friendly against Moroka Swallows at The Dome this afternoon, we should be talking about an all-conquering side in perfect harmony.
Instead, though the Buccaneers have plundered every major domestic trophy on offer in South Africa, the club is in turmoil.
But before rival Kaizer Chiefs fans begin celebrating prior to the weekend’s huge Soweto derby against the Ghost and their haunted professionals, consider this: Ruud Krol, the Dutchman so rudely ejected from Orlando despite winning an unprecedented treble last season, is still in the market.
And Germany’s 1990 World Cup-winning captain Lothar Mattheus has, I’m reliably informed, handed his CV to Khoza. Then there’s Free State Stars boss Steve Komphela waiting in the wings for a bigger, better club than the little stars of Bethlehem.
Any one of these three could walk the plank before the weekend. Even if they don’t, the players will be revelling in their revolution.
To parody the traditional end of epoch motto: The coach is gone. Long live the coach.
Have you seen how Chelsea are playing since AVB departed? John Terry is playing like the lighthouse of old, Didier Drogba banged in his 100th Premier League goal over the weekend, the first African to achieve that feat.
Now, with Leal gone, Benni McCarthy – a man of considerable experience and a deadly nose for goal – will be telling his stunned Buccaneer buddies: “Let’s get out there and show the Iron Duke what we can do.”
Believe me, today’s suspension will not weaken the Pirates at 2.30pm on Saturday. The 14 million Amakhosi will need to pray even harder than they were before. And what price Benni McCarthy becoming a player-coach? At 34, he's the same age as AVB was at Chelsea!
Follow me on That way, you get to hear these things before our mates.

Nedbank Cup last 16 draw just in:
Kaizer Chiefs vs Black Leopards
Orlando Pirates vs Free State Stars
Bidvest Wits vs Mamelodi Sundowns
Golden Arrows vs Maritzburg United
Amazulu vs Witbank Spurs
Jomo Cosmos vs Platinum Stars
United FC vs Supersport United
Roses United vs Santos

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The news every Gooner dreads: moneybags Manchester City keen on Robin van Persie

IT’S official. The news every Gooner has been dreading. Manchester City and their ridiculously rich backers have targeted Arsenal’s goalden Dutchman Robin van Persie. Arsene Wenger won’t be surprised. He’s already seen Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri head north to Eastlands, lured by the oil-soaked Dirhams on offer from Sheikh Mansour in Abu Dhabi. Arsenal’s bank balance may have improved, but as every Gooners knows, they’re struggling to compete without that handy quartet. Now Roberto Mancini, with his side top of the Premier League, had told The Sun in London: “All good teams are interested in him. At this moment, Robin van Persie is one of the best strikers in Europe with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli.” Bloody Mancini. He’s already got Aguero and Balotelli on his books. Edin Dzeko isn’t bad. Adebayor is on loan at Spurs and Carlos Tevez is lurking somewhere in the twilight between an apology and Argentina. Five world class strikers is an expensive luxury. Six would be ridiculous. But Mancini is only too aware that without Van Persie, Arsenal would be taken out of the equation as a Premier League threat. With 25 goals this season, he leads the English goalscoring charts by seven from Wayne Rooney. Without those goals, Arsenal probably be languishing somewhere just blow the middle of the tables, with fans at the Emirates Stadium having a right go at Gervinho, Maroune Chamakh and Theo Walcott every week. Arsenal’s potential demise only encourages Mancini, who said: "We are interested in all good players. If there is a good player who wants to leave a club, then we are interested.” Mancini, like Pep Guardiola at Barcelona and Jose Mourinho if he stays at Real Madrid after winning La Liga this season, won’t be put off by Van Persie’s repeated claims of loyalty to Wenger. At 28, he’s out of contract at the end of 2013. The giants are waiting to swoop, with money no object if Van Persie doesn’t sign a new deal before the end of the winter. Mancini claims: "If Van Persie leaves I don't think he will be cheap because he has one year left on his contract. If, for example, you wanted to buy Napoli's Edinson Cavani he would be maybe £30million. "I think Van Persie will sign a new contract. He is Arsenal's best player and it is difficult for them to give him to another club. "I think he is a fantastic striker but I think he will remain with Arsenal." Then why talk about him at all Roberto?

Monday, 5 March 2012

Will Irvin Khoza do a Roman Abramovich? Orlando Pirates set to follow Chelsea and push the coach

ORLANDO PIRATES could be under new management by the end of the week, with assistant coach Tebogo Moloi poised to temporarily replace the unpopular Julio Leal after two weeks of unrest in the camp.
Following the Sowetan giants’ failure to progress in the African Champions League on Sunday, no-nonsense supremo Irvin Khoza will hold a “crisis meeting to map out the future” today, with the results expected to be announced later this week.
Coach out, assistant in? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it: Buccaneers or Blues? It matters not. This week, parallels between west London and Soweto have never been more significant. At Orlando Pirates today, chairman Khoza is deciding whether he should do a Roman Abramovich and fire the coach after less than a season in charge.
On Sunday, 5,000 miles north of Soweto, the young Portuguese coach at Chelsea, Andre Villas Boas, found himself ditched after less than eight months in charge after Saturday’s shocking 1-0 defeat against West Brom. Though the Blues remain in contention for the Champions League – they must overcome a 3-1 deficit against Napoli at Stamford Bridge next week – and face an FA Cup replay against Birmingham tomorrow night – AVB’s “project” was derailed. At 34, the man who started his coaching career as a scout under Jose Mourinho, finds himself unemployed. But not for long given the Portuguese League, Cup and Europa League he won last season.
At around the same time on Sunday, Leal put out a Pirates side without experienced – and hugely popular - striker Benni McCarthy in Angola as he attempted to overturn a 3-1 deficit against Libolo in Calulo. A desperate 1-1 draw ensued, with McCarthy coming on as a late substitute in a game marred by controversial injuries, a disallowed goal and a brief touchline brawl.
Unlike AVB in London, Leal hasn’t done that badly on the field. His side are currently third in the race to defend their league title, they start their Nedbank Cup defence at the weekend and they have already won the Telkom Knockout and MTN Super-eight.
The problem is that, like AVB, Leal has, as we said here last week, lost the dressing room.
AVB’s “project” was to ease out the old Mourinho mob at Chelsea – thirtysomethings Didier Drogba, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard. He failed. Lamps, often left on the bench this season, went public with his “problems with the boss”.
At Pirates, Leal frequently leaves the 34-year-old, slightly overweight McCarthy on the bench, much to the chagrin of the black-and-white clad Ghost and his anxious team-mates. Leal also chooses to stick to his own particular methods and his broken English tends to result in frequent misunderstandings with the staff and players, who won the treble last season under the still-unemployed Dutch master Ruud Krol.
Abramovich has acted. In a brief phone call from the Russian elections on Sunday, he sacked AVB and put Roberto di Matteo, his assistant in charge.
Today, “Iron Duke” Khoza finds himself under pressure to act. Both he and Abramovich are rich, powerful men; they don’t suffer fools gladly, they don’t see losing as an option.
Like AVB, Leal has had eight brief months to sort things out. To persuade both players and fans he is the right man for the job. Like Chelsea, Pirates have as assistant waiting in the wings to take charge on a temporary basis. The difference between Tebogo Moloi and Robert di Matteo is that Moloi is relatively popular with the squad. Di Matteo is nothing of the sort. According to this morning’s Sun in London, he is “even more unpopular than AVB”.
There’s a chance, of course, the Leal – whose brother Jairo helps Pitso Mosimane at Bafana Bafana – will stay in his precarious position for a while longer. But ultimately, it’s only a matter of time before Irvin Khosa does a Roman Abramovich.
At Chelsea, the ghost of Jose Mourinho still lurks – he was seen house-hunting in London last week and is believed to be ready to leave Real Madrid once he’s wrapped up La Liga. In Orlando, Ruud Krol still stalks the stadia with his notebook and appearances on Robert Marawa’s Thursday Live. But it’s not always the obvious candidates who get the job. Watch this space.