A lifetime’s passion

2014-09-03 00:00

IF age never wore us down, Enzo Coppola (53) would play soccer for eternity. We all have passions and interests in life, but for Coppola, the round ball gives meaning to life and puts the twinkle in his eye.

Despite his Italian name, he is a Durban product through and through. Born in Addington Hospital, he attended the now closed St Agnes Primary School in Stamford Hill Road before going to George Campbell, “because the soccer was better there”.

He started playing soccer at primary school, when he was nine, and joined a club called Hearts, playing at U10 level.

“My first club match was against Addington Primary and I scored the goal in our 1-0 win,” said Coppola. “That was when the bug bit. Unfortunately, soccer was stopped at George Campbell in my last two years, but I played a bit of rugby and kept my soccer aspirations alive at club level and playing Sunday league.”

There was a talent and understanding for the game embedded in Coppola’s soul and he began putting this gift to good use.

“Durban’s two big clubs then were Durban City and Durban United. I played U14 to U17 at United and at 18, made the reserves with City,” he said. “Then I got an overseas break.”

An uncle in Italy gave Coppola the opportunity of a trial in the soccer-mad country. “I was on the verge of the Durban City senior side when I went to Italy and joined Benevento, a third division side,” said Coppola.

“We were based near Naples and I was there for four months, getting two full games, coming off the bench three times and scoring five goals.”

Although the club were keen to sign him, Coppola had to return to South Africa, his ticket having expired and already been extended once.

After the army, Coppola joined Juventus in Durban, where he played for 13 years. His first coach at the club was Clive Barker.

“Amateur soccer was big then and when I was 26, Clive referred me to Durban City coach Bill Williams. In March/April of 1986, I signed for City and enjoyed my best year, scoring 16 goals,” said Coppola.

“It was a different level from what I was used to, but we had top strikers playing in the league then. Shane McGregor, Calvin Peterson and Mike Mangena were banging in 35 or more goals a season.”

In 1987, Coppola played half a season with Durban City then focused his attention on Juventus.

“Mike Makaab was coach in 1988 and he had saved us from relegation the previous season,” said Coppola.

“We finished second in the league in 1988 and won the league and cup in 1989.”

At age 39, Coppola had to face his worst fears and retire from playing soccer, cartilage in his ankle having the final say.

“With Juventus, I won the league in 1981 and 1989, the latter being the NFA League which involved the whole of Natal.

“In 1994, I won the Super League with Westville Old Boys and through the years, have gradually got involved in administration at club level.”

These days, between his working and family life, Coppola is the PRO of the DCFA (Durban Central Football League), focusing on development, keeping soccer alive and well at club level in Durban.

He may not like it, but it’s fair to call him the “Godfather” of club soccer in Durban.

Coppola Lifestyle

• Plays golf once a month with the Wharf Rats

• Plays off a 25 handicap

• Enjoys fishing at a family cottage at Port Edward

• Does still life oil paintings

• Is a Liverpool supporter

• A life ambition is to visit Anfield

• Makes a good spaghetti bolognaise and homemade pizza

• Favourite meal is seafood

• Wishes he could play guitar

• Knows one or two piano chords

• Like 80s music — Queen, Billy Joel, Midnight Oil

• Reads sport biographies

• Action and movies based on true stories are a hit

• Is an entrance level coach and works in the furniture business

Advice to youngsters

“Talent is not enough. It’s about perseverance. Never give up and always believe in your ability. Put in the extra work and you will be rewarded.”

Coppola on club soccer in Durban

“There is a need for proper coaches. Only two to three grounds are up to scratch. Some have no running water and are not marked. Many of the grounds are neglected and it takes dedicated soccer people to take care if them and ensure the ball keeps rolling.

“Every club in the DCFA has to have two junior sides. Imagine if this policy was followed countrywide.

“There are plenty of passionate people keeping club soccer alive, but we need proper structures and framework.”

Coppola on strikers

“You can’t be taught to be a striker. To be a great striker a player needs to work on his instinct. They are not learning the right way these days, hence there is a lack of goals in SA football.

“Our strikers should be scoring more. They don’t run onto the ball.

“Development starts too late which means there is no understanding of the basics of the game.”

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