I think everyone was thinking I'm a Mickey Mouse coach‚ says Luc Eymael
Luc Eymael’s reputation in the Absa Premiership continues to soar‚ as now he has transformed Free State Stars from relegation battlers into top half contenders.
Wherever Eymael goes he seems to attract controversy.
He admitted he made a mistake when‚ after turning Polokwane City into top-five material on his introduction to the PSL‚ the coach quit for “personal reasons” then joined Bloemfontein Celtic the following day.
City won a protracted disciplinary battle for Eymael to return.
Larger than life – Eymael is a burly‚ bear of a man‚ with a sweeping 1950s hairstyle and a booming voice he seems to keep set generally at around full speaking volume – the coach is a character and speaks his mind.
Last Friday night‚ after Stars stormed to third place with a 1-0 win against Bidvest Wits at Bidvest Stadium‚ he had a verbal exchange with an assistant referee.
“No‚ no‚ I don’t know.
"I gave him my hand and told him compliments for the new year.
"And he was not looking in my eyes.
"If this is an indication‚ then this is his problem‚” Eymael said.
“But OK‚ at the end of the day we won and got the three points.
"And I think it was fair officiating.
“You know‚ if I give you my hand and you just look at me‚ is it because I am white?
"OK‚ but if that is his problem‚ God is above us‚ huh. God will punish one day – it’s no problem.
“Me‚ I’m a human being and respect everybody in the world. I’m 10 times older than him.”
Eymael does not apologise for his abrasiveness and direct manner.
He will rub people the wrong way again.
But he’s certainly a character.
Leaving Belgium in 2010 having coached for 11 years no higher than the third division‚ and played no higher either‚ he beat a path through Africa at big clubs like AS Vita‚ Rayon Sports and Al-Merrikh.
He won titles too‚ in Democratic Republic of Congo with Vita and Missile in Gabon.
And he backed up his imposing‚ sometimes warm‚ sometimes fiery character with technical credentials too‚ and has his Uefa Pro license.
Stars have reacted well to the coach’s style‚ winning seven‚ drawing three and losing four times under Eymael.
Their last three games have been wins against SuperSport United‚ Orlando Pirates and Wits.
And Eymael has shown he can be the diplomat too‚ cleverly playing down his personal target as the top eight.
“We have played 16 games – 14 games remain.
"So it’s too early to say that we will be in the top three or top four‚” he said.
“When I said to the media that I wanted to take Free State Stars into the top eight I think everyone was thinking that Luc Eymael is Mickey Mouse‚ he’s not humble.
“But if I did it with Polokwane City why not with Stars?
“But OK‚ with what I am giving from my kind of training‚ I know my style and how I am working.
"We reinforced the technical team with a new goalkeeper-coach (Tunisian Moured Selmi‚ who worked with Eymael in Sudan). Maybe we will change more next year.
“But‚ yes‚ for the rest‚ you cannot predict what will happen in 14 games. Only God will know.
“You have to take one game at a time. Our next is against Cape Town City (at Goble Park on Saturday).
“We lost 1-0 there on a really stupid goal‚ and I hope we will get our revenge.
“But we have to be realistic keep our feet on the ground‚ work harder and remain focused.”
Eymael will not just beef up his technical squad‚ but said Stars will announce a new Belgian striker this week too.