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Eric Tinkler lauds Roger de Sa's Nations Cup heroics with Egypt

01 February 2022 - 15:35 By Marc Strydom
Egypt assistant coach Roger de Sa and coach Carlos Queiroz during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations last-16 match against Ivory Coast at Japoma Stadium in Douala, Cameroon, on January 26 2022.
Egypt assistant coach Roger de Sa and coach Carlos Queiroz during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations last-16 match against Ivory Coast at Japoma Stadium in Douala, Cameroon, on January 26 2022.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Eric Tinkler has lauded the work of another South African coach on a top stage after long-time playing and coaching buddy Roger de Sa helped manager Carlos Queiroz steer Egypt to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) semifinals.

Record seven-time champions Egypt meet tournament hosts Cameroon — second-highest on the list of Nations Cup winners with five titles — in a clash of giants at Olembe Stadium on Thursday night.

De Sa is titled Egypt’s “coach”, and while he is an effective assistant to manager Queiroz the South African has said he handles much of the team training.

After an unconvincing group stage, Mo Salah-inspired championship juggernaut Egypt have put behind them the jitters of a repetition of their nightmare 1-0 last-16 shock to Bafana Bafana as hosts in 2019. The Pharaohs saw off in-form Ivory Coast on penalties in the last-16 then powered to a 2-1 extra-time win against Morocco in a high-class quarterfinal, Liverpool star Salah going to his second tournament goal.

Cape Town City coach Tinkler, a winner of the Afcon with Bafana in 1996, was a national teammate of De Sa. The pair — De Sa as coach and Tinkler as assistant — set up strong youth structures at Bidvest Wits in the 2000s, and steered Orlando Pirates to the 2013 Caf Champions League final, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Cairo giants Al Ahly.

“It’s fantastic to see our coaches doing well,” Tinkler raved of De Sa breaking ground internationally with Egypt, after the success of former Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane winning five trophies in just over a year at Al Ahly.

“Roger has always been a good friend with Queiroz. Their relationship dates back to when Queiroz coached Bafana [ 2001-2002], and Roger was a goalkeeper in the team, and then became his assistant.

“Queiroz roped Roger in [as an assistant coach] for Portugal when he led them here at the 2010 World Cup. I think Roger’s coaching style has been based on what he’s learnt from Queiroz.

“So Roger becoming Queiroz’s Egypt assistant didn’t come as a surprise to me. I was with Roger when he got the news from Queiroz, and he had to pack a bag and leave in the space of two or three days. So he didn’t have a lot of forewarning about the job.

“And I know it’s been a tough job because they got there and had qualification matches, then the Arab Cup, and then straight to the Afcon.

“There’s been a lot of pressure on them and they didn’t start very well, but slowly things started to get better.

“Now they’re in the semifinals, and we know the quality that Egypt have, and we’re starting to see it again. A lot of that is to do with what Queiroz and Roger have managed to instil again.”

De Sa’s last top-flight coaching job had been with Platinum Stars in 2018, before the former Moroka Swallows goalkeeper became involved in administration for a time, facilitating the sale of Stars to Cape Umoya and running and coaching them in the National First Division (NFD). He was coaching NFD Cape Town All Stars when he got the call from Queiroz in September.

Pirates’ run to the 2013 Champions League final paved the way for SA coaches to earn top jobs. Bucs’ success reversed years of continental underachievement by SA clubs, laying the groundwork for Sundowns’ 2016 Champions League victory and Mosimane’s revolution that turned the Brazilians into perennial knockout stage qualifiers, and a force on the continent.

Bucs under De Sa and Tinkler also burst the illusion of the invincibility of North African, and particularly Egyptian, club giants. Pirates shocked Ahly 3-0 away and Zamalek 4-1 at home in the 2013 group stage, then edged Esperance de Tunis on away goals in the semifinals.

“I think people in Egypt do remember when we were successful against their teams in the Champions League,” Tinkler said.

“Roger built a reputation in Africa because of what he achieved with Pirates in 2013, similar to me reaching the 2015 and 2017 Confederation Cup finals with Pirates and SuperSport United.

“SA coaches doing well on the continent is the reason Pitso has got the job he has now with Ahly — because of what he did with Sundowns in the Champions League.

“I think that’s opened the door for people to look at SA coaches.”

Egypt finished fourth at the Arab Cup in Qatar in December. In Afcon 2021’s Group D they lost 1-0 against Nigeria then beat Guinea-Bissau and Sudan 1-0.