The secret to Da Gama’s Pirates success

2007-12-22 00:00

OWEN da Gama’s revolution at Orlando Pirates, taking a fractured, ill-disciplined team from last place in the PSL to sixth in just under three months, has been nothing short of remarkable.

Da Gama replaced DR Congolese Bibey Mutombo in late September and took over a Pirates team in disarray. The coach described to Weekend Witness how he has set about turning Bucs’ over-sized, but hugely talented, squad into a side now being mentioned as championship material:

“Look, there is no doubt that Pirates was in a terrible mess when I arrived here. The team was divided into two camps – there was an ‘Orlando’ camp and a ‘Pirates’ camp.

“So the first thing I did was to speak to each player on a one-on-one situation and find out what his grievances were, and found that some had been played out of position, and so on.

“Some problems were justified and some weren’t. But eventually we were able to begin to make everyone happy and to make the squad more unified.

“The next thing was to play a lot of friendlies, and to involve all of the players in those so that even some players who had not played in a friendly for 12 months finally felt they were at least being given a chance to show what they could do. And that gave a lot of players hope.

“We also evaluated each player. On the basis of that we selected a team that we felt was our strongest starting XI, regardless of big names or who had been chosen before. And that showed that there was no favouritism and also gave a lot of players hope.

“When I arrived there were also a lot of players out injured who had been sent home to recover. And we said, no, rather bring them back so we can fight those injuries here and rehabilitate those players back to match fitness. When I arrived we had 18 injuries and now we have three. And we also have not picked up an injury in six weeks, which shows that the players are better conditioned than before.”

Da Gama’s time at Pirates has not been a bed of roses. The coach was incensed two weeks ago when club chairman Irvin Khoza added to the Bucs’ already massive squad by signing 32-year-old former Manning Rangers striker Gilbert Mushangazikhe from Chinese club Jiangsu Shuntian without consulting him.

This prompted Da Gama to say at the time: “I don’t know what to say. This is the first in my career such a thing has happened.

“I don’t own Pirates, but if this is how things are done here, I will have to make a decision about my future before being embarrassed again. I will make a decision after talking with the club chairman. We need to be professional.”

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