Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira announced his resignation on Monday as coach of 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa.
World Cup-winning coach Parreira, who served 15 months of a three-and-a-half-year contract aimed at transforming the struggling national team, quit because his Brazil-based wife is ill after recent major surgery.
He will relinquish the post of head coach from May 2.
Parreira sent a letter of resignation to South Africa Football Association (Safa) president Molefi Oliphant before they addressed the media after an emergency meeting of the national governing body.
Parreira said it was a ”very difficult” decision for him to make, adding it was heartbreaking.
He said he could no longer maintain the balance between his personal life and business life.
”My family, my wife needs me. After being married 36 years, I could not say no,” Parreira said.
”There is no winner in such a situation. It’s not good for me to break this contract in the middle when everything was going so well.”
He said everything was in place for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.
”We are going to have a very good World Cup.”
A weekend Johannesburg newspaper report quoted an unnamed Safa official as saying Leila Parreira was battling cancer and not even iconic former president Nelson Mandela could talk the coach out of leaving.
Leila Parreira told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo last Friday that the coach would return home next month to assist her recovery from major surgery and be with his grandchildren.
The 65-year-old coach guided Brazil to their fourth world title in 1994 and opted to quit a month after being lauded when South Africa gave their finest display for years to outclass Paraguay 3-0 in a Pretoria friendly.
It was the first time in 10 attempts that Bafana Bafana defeated South American opposition since being readmitted to international football in 1992 after three decades of isolation.
South Africa won nine matches, drew six and lost six since Parreira assumed control in February last year with compatriot Jairo Leal and South African Pitso Mosimane his assistants.
Victory over in-form Paraguay came soon after South Africa made a lacklustre first-round exit from the African Nations Cup in Ghana following draws with Angola and Senegal and a heavy loss to Tunisia.
Bafana Bafana are guaranteed a place at the first World Cup to be staged in Africa as hosts, but must compete in the 2010 qualifiers because they double as elimination matches for the African Nations Cup in Angola the same year.
The first fixture is away to bogey team Nigeria on May 31 followed by Equatorial Guinea (home) and Sierra Leone (away and home) on the following three weekends.
Local media reports have linked a number of high-profile coaches with the post, including Brazilian Luiz Scolari and Swede Sven Goran Eriksson, whose son helps coach a South African Premiership club.
The contract of Scolari with Portugal ends after the Euro 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland while former England manager Eriksson has visited South Africa several times since taking over Manchester City.
Some reports suggest Parreira wants 1998 and 2002 World Cup qualifiers South Africa to hire another Brazilian, with club coaches Joel Santana of Flamengo and Abel Braga of Internacional mentioned.
South Africa are ranked 13th in Africa and 69th in the world by international governing body Fifa, whose president, Sepp Blatter, expressed concern at the poor form of the team before they met Paraguay.
Meanwhile Safa are hoping to name the new head coach on May 6.
This was confirmed by Safa CEO Raymond Hack.
Hack said: ”We need to get the new coach in place as soon as possible. We are expecting a lot of applications for the job but will move fast on appointing a new coach in view of the forthcoming 2010 African Nations Cup qualifiers, which are just around the corner.”
Parreira was the 14th coach to take charge of the ailing Bafana since South Africa were re-admitted back into world football. — AFP, Sapa