The employment of Brazilian Julio Cesar Leal as the new Orlando Pirates coach this week finally revealed why club chairperson Irvin Khoza did not extend the contract of Dutchman Ruud Krol, despite his impressive achievement in guiding the Soweto side to a historic treble.
Although Pirates won three titles in a single season, the type of football they played apparently lacked the quality Khoza wants to be associated with them and the beautiful game.
Khoza did not say much at a media conference to announce the appointment of Leal on a three-year contract, but in the few words he used, it was clear that the Pirates chairperson wants the bewildering interplay of the samba kings to be part of the game of the South African champions.
“Leal’s coaching experience and his philosophy of employing an attractive brand of attacking football fits in snugly with our new direction,” Khoza said, indicating that he wanted a clean break from their rigid, uninspiring and, to rub it in, unimpressive style that was preferred by Krol.
“With his [Leal’s] experience, we hope that he will assist us with plans that we have set for ourselves,” Khoza said. “The team should be playing the kind of football that rekindles the old Pirates culture.”
If anything, that statement indicated why Pirates ditched a man who transformed a team that sometimes hardly looked like the champions they became. Clearly it was just not good enough; it simply did not represent the Pirates culture. Pirates are a breed apart. They want to win with the style, arrogance and swagger associated with the Brazilians.
Leal himself said that, with the quality at his disposal, he wants Pirates to be described as an almost indefinable, mystical team with a particular style of movement and attitude evident in everything they do. But, above all, he wants them to score goals, many goals for that matter, which must have been sweet music to Khoza’s ears.
Leal enjoyed relative success with AmaZulu, a modest team with limited resources, but it was only after changing their stereotyped way of hoofing the ball up-field and implementing an attractive, rhythmic approach that they won a legion of followers.
He also instilled confidence in a Swallows team that was flying on a wing and a prayer when he arrived and he led them to the Nedbank Challenge triumph.
Leal is under no illusion about the challenges that face him in probably the hottest seat in South African football but he said that he was up to it.
Although some supporters have grumbled about not retaining Krol, Leal promised that Pirates will score a lot more goals this season and that challenge comes up next month when he guides the team against Tottenham Hotspur and Kaizer Chiefs in the Vodacom Challenge.