‘Leadership the key’

2015-12-16 06:00
FORWARD THINKER: Owen Da Gama. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

FORWARD THINKER: Owen Da Gama. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

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OWEN DA GAMA, South Africa u.23 coach, has praised the cooperation between the South African Football Association (Safa) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) after South Africa won bronze at the CAF u.23 African Cup of Nations and also a place in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Matlhomola Morake spoke to him about South Africa qualifying for this ultimate sporting event, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next year.

Congratulations with qualifying, how are you feeling?

I am ecstatic, but I am even happier for the players.

I am extremely pleased for the Safa hierarchy – the president, the chief executive officer, our head coach, Shakes Mashaba – these are the people who started it all, these are the people who made it possible for me to be here.

So, the decision by the PSL to stop all matches was a masterstroke?

Indeed, it was.

We always say the success we have is through our leadership at Safa, and the leadership at the PSL.

It has turned out to be good for South African football, because everyone is looking at us and asking: What are the leaders in South Africa doing?

I can safely say the leadership in our country’s football is something special.

How much belief did you have in this team after you had selected it? Did you expect it to achieve such results?

First and foremost, its important to note that it was done by a collective: (Shakes) Mashaba, Thabo Senong, Molefi Ntseki, Lucky Shiburi, Deshi Baktawer, Shaun Bartlett and Cameron Cox. These are the people who made it possible. We consulted collectively, and we agreed on it.

Were you happy with preparations for this tournament?

It is important not to make excuses, but ensure once you have achieved something, you can reflect on your success.

We had not played a West African team coming to this tournament, and that for me is crucial. We have to be exposed to every part of the continent and it would have been great had we played one of them prior to this competition.

We need to get exposure. We were not here just to make up the numbers, we were here to ensure that we made a meaning contribution, not only to the tournament, but also to our football.

How was the Senegal match?

Prior to the match, I never slept. I sat on the bed with different papers trying to see what solutions we could have for this big clash. Also, how I had to present my case to the other coaches when we meet, and that is the resolve I am talking about. The other coaches also had a sleepless night, but what is nice is that once we took a decision that this was the route we are taking, we stuck to it.

The team also won the fair play award at this tournament. Tell us about that.

It is testament to the way South Africans are, to be like the father of the nation, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. We speak about humility and to win a fair play trophy is just reward.

We have conceded seven goals in five matches. Does that bother you?

Of course it bothers us a lot.

I must make it clear that it was the first time that Rivaldo Coetzee came to play for us and it took time for him to build a relationship with Kwanda Mngonyama. We are aware of it and we will fix it.

There is one thing about us: We believe in the people that we select and encourage them up until the last minute.

Where to next?

It is important to sit as a collective and plan things thoroughly. We need to present a formal plan to our leadership to say, this is how we would like to prepare for the Olympics, and take it from there.

There has been talk about using over-aged players at the Olympic Games. Will you go that route?

Right now we have to savour the moment we have achieved.

We need to go back and sit with relevant stakeholders, discuss this thoroughly and make a decision we think is best for the country.

The success that we are enjoying now, is because of the collective, so I cannot stand here as an individual and make an announcement on that matter.

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