Kick Off

Cape to Cairo


RogerRoger de Sa has joined long-time friend and mentor Carlos Queiroz on the technical team of Egypt, another sign of the value in which South African coaches are held abroad. He had to hit the ground running in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in October and provides KICK OFF’s Mark Gleeson with fascinatin­g insight into the workings of Queiroz, as well as his first impression­s of Mo Salah.

It did not take too long to dawn on Carlos Queiroz that his newlyappoi­nted assistant was better known in Egypt than him. “It was quite funny, he said, when he put my name down as part of his technical team that they knew my CV better than his. He was quite chuffed, ‘they know you well here,’ he joked with me,” says Roger de Sa, whose exploits as coach of Orlando Pirates, including an unpreceden­ted 3-0 away win in the 2013 African Champions League against Al Ahly, have earned the former Bafana goalkeeper and coach of multiple topflight South African clubs a healthy reputation up north.

It was something Queiroz was not aware of at first when he asked the 57-year-old De Sa to join him in his latest national team adventure as coach of Egypt.

It is the sixth national team that the 68-year-old has taken charge of after departing his last job as Colombia coach in 2020.


Queiroz has also coached his native Portugal twice, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Iran, who he took to the last two World Cup finals in Brazil and Russia.

He also was manager of Real Madrid and assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Not a bad mentor for Mozambique­born, Johannesbu­rg-raised and Cape Town-based De Sa to have.

“Of course, Carlos’ work ethic is always challengin­g for anybody in the world. We work hard, we put in long hours.”

De Sa feels his African experience is what Queiroz’ values most.

“It’s the most important,” he says. “And then obviously the track record together. I worked with him with the Portuguese national team. He knows me pretty

well, he knows my views on the game, my work ethic and all that. I think he enjoys working with me.”

Queiroz, who was also born in Mozambique and still keeps a residence there, has a reputation among the leading lights of world coaching. On the rare occasion FIFA have had to put together a World XI, it is invariably Queiroz who is asked to choose and lead the side.

“But he’s a pretty normal person and quite willing to listen to other opinions and suggestion­s,” adds De Sa. “It’s nice to know that he trusts you.”

High expectatio­ns

The Egypt job happened rather quickly, within hours of the end of the first two qualifiers for the Qatar World Cup in September.

Egypt had won their opening Group F game against Angola in a far from convincing fashion in Cairo, needing a penalty for a 1-0 triumph and then scrambled a last gasp equaliser to force a 1-1 draw in their second match away against Gabon.

Four points from their opening six matches might have satisfied most football associatio­n bosses, but not in Egypt.

They hoofed out Hossam El Badry from the job he had held for two years, and despite the fact he had not lost a game in charge since taking over in the wake of Bafana Bafana knocking out Egypt from the 2019 African Cup of Nations finals they hosted.

Egypt reached out to Queiroz, who had been on South Africa’s radar earlier in the year, while he was on holiday in Mozambique and he in turn invited De Sa to be his No. 2.

He is part of a three-man team that Queiroz has taken with him to Cairo, along with his long serving Argentine fitness coordinato­r Diego Giacchinio, and coach and analyst Michael Loftman, who was formerly at Pirates too.

The immediate objective is to qualify for the final stage of the World Cup qualifiers in March, plus achieve at both the new Arab Cup in Qatar in December and the Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon in January.

Queiroz and company got off to the perfect start, with a friendly win over Liberia, and then back-to-back World Cup triumphs over Libya in October.

“Look, the first game against Liberia was a friendly game with the local players. That was important for us to get to know the local guys and I think that was key that Carlos scheduled that game as well.

“To get in a friendly before we actually played the real thing was good, so that not only could we measure our players but I think the players could also measure us, how do we work.

“We were obviously a lot better prepared when we got to play Libya. They were unbeaten and flying high, so it was important that we came up with the result. It was like their World Cup final.”


Straight to work

De Sa emphasises that the build-up to such a game is manic for the coaching staff.

“You’ve really got only two or three days to prepare, so it’s quite hectic those days and you put in long hours. You just never stop working, never stop analysing, looking at videos and preparing one-on-one discussion­s with the players. There are twominute clips that go out to each player about an individual in the opposition he might be facing. There’s everything you can think of to be worked on before the match.”

The World Cup playoffs in March pit the 10 teams that finished top during the group phase from September to November.

The Arab Cup is a new FIFA tournament, designed to test Qatar’s facilities and readiness for the World

Cup next year and replaces the old Confederat­ion Cup.

Egypt will compete in December with only home-grown players and have been draw in the same group with Algeria, Lebanon and Sudan. They are guaranteed three games and should they progress, as expected, could play potentiall­y three more.

In the Cup of Nations finals, Egypt are in Group D with Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria and again Sudan. Their first game is against the Super Eagles in Garoua on January 11.

“Of course, the play off is going to be tough. We are going to be up against it know because it is the best 10 teams. That becomes another cup final and you don’t know who you’re up against. It will depend on the FIFA rankings and we want to climb up those as high as possible,” says De Sa.

“I think the fact that they qualified for the last World Cup means there’s big hopes that we qualify again.

“It’s a big factor for the whole North Africa and Middle East region that this World

Cup is going to be played in Qatar. You can imagine the prestige of getting to the finals and also then doing well at the tournament,” he adds.

Down-to-earth Salah

De Sa rates the potential of the Egypt team, for whom Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is an iconic talisman.

“A very normal guy,” he says of the Premier League goal machine, “extremely humble, easy to work with and well respected by his teammates and everybody else. I think his personalit­y helps.

“He’s not blasé at all, pretty normal, and he just wants to fit in and he just wants to be a part of the national team as much as everybody else. You know, it’s actually quite a pleasure to work with him.

“Of course, Carlos had a few phone calls to him prior to the camp and there is an obvious respect towards his club and his commitment­s, and the minutes he plays for the national team.”

Part of Queiroz’s meticulous ways is the amount of research that goes into the individual players: “How many minutes they’ve played, how much they trained before they even arrive. Do they need a few days off? So much scientific research and approach to all that he does.

“If we start at 10 in the morning, then it’s right up till midnight. Training, studying videos, more video footage, meetings. Discussion­s. The analysis of the opposition, the analysis for our individual players. It just never ends and the attention to detail that Carlos has is frightenin­g. He’s an academic so you can imagine it goes beyond the football side of things.

“I suppose that’s why we get on pretty well you know, we enjoy the office, sitting at the desktop computer and analysing and looking deeper than just the actual game.

“Plus, of course, working out on the training pitch,” De Sa adds.

De Sa travelled to Cairo a week before Queiroz’s first match in charge and returned to his family in Cape Town for a brief sojourn after the two matches against Libya.


“Just five days because I don’t think I’ll see them again until after the Cup of Nations,” he explained.

Taking in local action

On his return to Cairo, he and Queiroz were on hand to watch the Egyptian sides playing in the knockout stages of the African club competitio­ns and were then on site for the start of the new league season in late October.

“We will try to watch just about every game and make sure we have seen all the locally-based players. It’s a long stretch but it goes quickly because we’re so busy.”

The technical team stay in a hotel just minutes walk from their offices at the Egypt Football Associatio­n building on Zamalek Island in the middle of the Nile.

“It’s pretty well organised, they have big aspiration­s and big dreams. We are also working with guys with impressive track records, like Wael Gomaa, who is the team manager.

“He’s been in the game forever in Egypt and it’s been good to hook up with him and you know we can talk about previous experience­s and memories.

“It’s a very exciting adventure,” he adds, without a hint of understate­ment.

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 ?? ?? Carlos Queiroz
Carlos Queiroz
 ?? ?? Roger de Sa
Roger de Sa
 ?? ?? Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah

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