Da Gama does it all

With as much savvy in busi­ness as in coach­ing, young Bafana’s coach tells Daniel Mothowa­gae that he’s all about pas­sion and prin­ci­ple

CityPress - - Sport -

Owen Joao Cor­nelius Da Gama speaks Por­tuguese, Xit­songa and a bit of Tshiv­enda. City Press con­ducted a Q&A ses­sion with the re­spected coach to find out more. Tell us about your fam­ily. My grand­fa­ther is Por­tuguese and my grand­mother is muT­songa. My fam­ily orig­i­nates from Makhu­vha vil­lage in Venda [out­side Tho­hoyan­dou], but I grew up in Pre­to­ria. This is where the con­nec­tion came from and how I got my Por­tuguese names. My mother still lives on a farm in Venda and most of my friends are there.

I am the only son in a fam­ily of three chil­dren. I am mar­ried with three sons, but have four other chil­dren out­side of my mar­riage. Your in­ter­ests be­sides foot­ball? I have tried ev­ery­thing – from run­ning cafés, a bak­ery out­let and a liquor store to sell­ing cars and hav­ing a prop­erty busi­ness.

My love of coach­ing and pas­sion for the game have taken me away from my busi­nesses many times, but I still have busi­ness in­ter­ests.

I am cur­rently con­struct­ing a fill­ing sta­tion. I also have shares in an IT com­pany and I am in­volved in a project to open a com­puter school in Lim­popo.

I run a num­ber of busi­nesses be­cause I don’t want to be a des­per­ate coach look­ing for a job and end­ing up sac­ri­fic­ing my prin­ci­ples. Some peo­ple call us ‘hun­gry coaches’ or ‘stom­ach coaches’ but I don’t sac­ri­fice my be­liefs. And when I am coach­ing, I fo­cus fully, as I have other peo­ple look­ing af­ter my busi­nesses.

How does it feel to be only the sec­ond coach – af­ter Shakes Mashaba – to guide a South African Un­der-23 team to the Olympics?

I wanted Olympic qual­i­fi­ca­tion so badly for the boys and the coun­try. It was a call of duty, as I am serv­ing my coun­try. Coach­ing a na­tional team is an op­por­tu­nity coaches don’t get all the time.

It was not easy in Sene­gal [at the CAF Un­der-23 Africa Cup of Na­tions] try­ing to make 21 boys gel to­gether in a team of 11. We worked so hard within a lim­ited time. My ho­tel room in Sene­gal re­sem­bled an of­fice be­cause I spent so much time try­ing to un­der­stand the boys.

Tell us about your un­usual nick­name, ‘Rub­ber Doll’.

I got the nick­name dur­ing my play­ing days at Pre­to­ria Cal­lies from late Pre­to­ria News jour­nal­ist Ken­neth Le­bethe. He used to write that I came off the ground like a ‘rub­ber doll’, re­fer­ring to in­stances when I was fouled but jumped up with­out rolling over the ground, no mat­ter how hard I was floored.

Did coach­ing come as a call­ing for you?

I started out as a player-coach at Dur­ban Leeds United in the late 1980s. We reached the Bob Save Su­per Bowl Cup semi­fi­nal, where we lost to Or­lando Pi­rates. I nearly quit coach­ing af­ter a bad ex­pe­ri­ence when I started full-time coach­ing in the early 1990s. Joseph Map­fu­la­gasha [co-founder of Sil­ver Stars, which was re­named Plat­inum Stars] con­vinced my late fa­ther to get me back into coach­ing. I have been blessed so far in my coach­ing ca­reer be­cause of my pas­sion.

PHOTO: BACK­PAGEPIX

WELL PLAYED From left to right: Ab­bubaker Mo­bara, Ri­valdo Coet­zee and Riyaad Noro­dien cel­e­brate young Bafana’s third-place fin­ish at the CAF Un­der-23 Africa Cup of Na­tions

PHOTO: SYD­NEY MAHLANGU / BACK­PAGEPIX

MAS­TER­MIND Owen Da Gama

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