From ‘Roger Disaster’ to ‘Roger de Winner’

Orlando Pirates

In the latest issue of KICK OFF magazine, De Sa answers YOUR tough questions! Get it now!

A bad start

To say that Roger de Sa’s appointment as an Orlando Pirates coach was not welcomed by most Pirates’ fans would be an understatement.

Despite his illustrious playing career in Mzansi and his 10-year coaching experience, De Sa was not seen as Orlando Pirates coaching material.

‘Roger Disaster’ and ‘Roger Dlisa’ were some of the nicknames given to him by ridiculing and negative Bucs fans who did not see the future of the club in the former Bidvest Wits coach.

The Iron Duke stands firm

But club chairman Dr Irvin Khoza stood by his man. “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,” Khoza said at the time of Da Sa’s hiring.

Without having a pre-season with his new players, De Sa and his new technical team, made up of Eric Tinkler and Teboho Moloi, got on with the 2012/13 season.

Having won six trophies in two seasons, Orlando Pirates fans expected the team to pick up from when they left off and to continue winning trophies. But as in most cases with teams that achieve a lot of success with the same players, cycles come to end, a team’s performance goes through decline phase and players get complacent.

And this is exactly the state De Sa found Pirates in when he joined. Performance was declining, Moeneeb Josephs was guaranteed a place in the starting line-up no matter what and Senzo Meyiwa was a ‘back-up singer’. Benni McCarthy was also the star of the team.

The decline had nothing to do with De Sa

SuperSport pundit and Stars of Africa Academy technical director Farouk Khan says: “I couldn’t understand why Roger was blamed when results were not forthcoming because when a team wins two League titles in a row they peak and then go through decline.

“This happened at Pirates and some of the players were aging and these are some of the factors that contribute to a decline of performance. It was not Roger’s fault, it has to do with the timing of when he joined the team.”

Time for changes – the number one jersey

But unpopular changes had to be made. Meyiwa was installed as number one goalkeeper and Josephs found himself relegated to the bench after he recovered from an injury.

“For now, Senzo is the number one. He's doing well, he is playing well and he will hold on to his position. Until Moeneeb shows me he is ready to play a couple of reserve games and he is in top form, and Senzo loses his form, then we will change it. But Senzo is holding on to that spot and if he keeps performing, there will be no reason to change,” De Sa told in December 2012.

Not only did De Sa, a former goalkeeper himself, hand Meyiwa the number one spot, but he also gave him confidence and, despite that being an unpopular choice with fans, the coach stuck by his decision.

De Sa sticks to his guns

In midfield, Sifiso Myeni’s return from injury coincided with De Sa taking over. The midfielder previously worked with De Sa at Wits and it was no coincidence when he came into the team and knew exactly what was expected of him.

Up front, star striker Benni McCarthy’s reputation was not enough to earn him a place in the starting line-up. Once again, De Sa stood his ground and used the former Bafana Bafana striker as a bit part player.

Slowly but surely, the identity of De Sa’s team was shaping up nicely – but the changes were made at the expense of results.

The low point

A 4-1 humiliation defeat against Second Division side Maluti FET College FC was the beginning of a spell that saw De Sa playing eight matches without a win. After a 1-1 draw against AmaZulu in April, De Sa was pelted with missiles by Pirates fans.

But the coach was not perturbed, stating that: “Sometimes it's just a bunch of crazy fans. You don't see that happening in Europe. You need to speak to people who know the game.”

By now it was clear that De Sa was living on borrowed time.

African adventure

While Pirates finished the season without a trophy for the first time in three seasons, in Africa the team was slowly but surely making a progress.

After brushing aside Djabal FC from Comoros and Zanaco FC from Zambia, the clash against TP Mazembe was seen as end of the road for De Sa. But after a heroic 3-2 win over the former African champions the Buccaneers were confirmed into the group stages.

And what begun as criticism yelled in De Sa’s direction was now slowly becoming a voice of encouragement. But after they were drawn in a group with Al Ahly, Zamalek and AC Leopards from Congo, it was deemed another end of the road for Pirates.

Once again, De Sa proved his critics wrong. After a 0-0 draw at home to Leopards, a 3-0 win over Al Ahly away and a 4-1 win against Zamalek, Orlando Pirates were all of a sudden tipped as a favourites to reach the semi-final.

And the team did so, drawing 0-0 against Al Ahly in Orlando, and De Sa was now a favourite among the fans. Beating Kaizer Chiefs 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals of the MTN8 this weekend was the cherry on top.

And if De Sa can win the MTN8 and the CAF Champions League Final, he will write his name in the history books of African football.

A strong technical team and a charismatic captain

“Now Pirates are peaking and this has to do with Roger and his technical team getting into the mind of players,” Khan says. “People can see from outside that Roger, Eric Tinkler and Teboho Moloi get along very well, that rubs off on players. The management is supporting the team.

“Another factor is Lucky Lekgwathi, he is a positive player that youngsters and other players can rely. He has done a lot to bring positive energy in Roger’s team.”

In the latest issue of KICK OFF magazine, De Sa answers YOUR tough questions! Get it now!



Full name: Rogerio Paulo Cesar de Sa
Born: 2/10/64 in Lourenço Marques (now  Maputo), Mozambique
Nationality: South African
Coaching career
Qualifications: Safa Level I, Caf B Licence
Teams coached: 2000-01 Wits University FC assistant coach; 2000-02, 2004 South Africa goalkeeper coach; 2001-05 Wits University FC; 2005-07 Santos FC; 2007-12 Bidvest Wits; 2010 Portugal technical advisor; 2012- Orlando Pirates
Honours: 2002/03 PSL Coach of the Year; 2010 Nedbank Cup winner

De Sa Orlando Pirates record:
2012/13 Telkom Knockout: Quarter-finalists
2012/13 Nebank Cup: Last 32
2012/13 League position: 3
2012 CAF Champions League: In the semi-final
2012/13 MTN8: In the Final