South Africa’s national football team was holding a three-week training camp in Herzogenaurach, Germany. And heinnews’ David Hein had a chance to ask some questions to Bafana Bafana boss Carlos Alberto Parreira, who led Brazil to the 1994 World Cup title. They discussed South Africa’s training camp and the team’s playing system; differences between preparing South Africa and Brazil for a World Cup; the first World Cup in Africa; what South Africa can/should do after the 2010 World Cup; and his two cents regarding who is successor should be.
heinnews: You have been here in Germany about two weeks. What do you think about the mood of your team?
Parreira: I think the mood is good. We know that we have a very tough group. We know we should be well prepared otherwise our chances are absolutely nothing. We should be well prepared physically, tactically mentally to rise in the right moments. We have to be the surprising team at the World Cup. I believe the boys will do well. If we qualify or not it’s something else. But they will play well, I am sure of that.
heinnews: Your team will have played friendly matches against North Korea and Jamaica at this training camp, what are your thoughts on those games?
Parreira: We need friendly games. Of course if we could play Brazil, Germany, England, it would be better. But it’s so difficult to get these teams. Even the Bundesliga teams, we couldn’t get anybody. We have been trying since December, not just myself. There are a lot of people working on it. Nobody is willing to find one game for us. It’s very difficult for us.
heinnews: This is the second training camp for the South African team following their month in Brazil. What is the goal for this team here?
Parreira: Going to the World Cup at home physically we should be very keen. We should be at the highest condition. We have to get to the highest level of physical condition. Because we need to be a fighting team with a very high spirit, mentally very strong, in good shape and with an identity. I believe we will play well if we emphasise our strengths, which I believe are technique and skill. These players are good when they put the ball on the ground, when they have ball possession, when they try to play with the technique. If you look at the team physically they are not very strong. We cannot face the teams we are going to play thinking about power and contact. We need to stress the technique and the creativity. That’s why we went to Brazil for a month and it was very positive there. We are not ready for the World Cup right now. But there is good progress.
heinnews: How big of an advantage is it to have the team for such a long period of time?
Parreira: Well, we don’t have all of them. All of the foreign players are not here. Just like any other team in the world they will join after the leagues finish. So it helps but it’s not the ideal situation. The ideal is to have them all together. It helps because maybe 14 or 15 of these players will take part in the final squad. So it helps, especially for us in South Africa. But it’s not the ideal situation. The ideal is to have all of them together from the very beginning. But we couldn’t get that with the overseas clubs. But it helps. At least we have one team here. We will not be starting from zero.
heinnews: Can you form a strong system with the players here?
Parreira: Yeah, we can. And the others will fit in, no problem. That is the big advantage. With Brazil and here, we are defining the shape. The players from overseas will come and fit into the shape. That’s good.
heinnews: How are the preparations for this South Africa team different from those with the Brazil team?
Parreira: It’s totally different. With the Brazilian team we don’t need that long of a preparation. The players are playing in the big teams in the big leagues. They have so much experience in top football. We see them in the Champions League, which after the World Cup is the biggest competition in the world because there you have all the national players from all over the world – from Africa, from Asia, from South America, from Europe. And most of the Brazilian team are in that competition, playing top games and top competition. So they don’t need long preparations.
The preparation for us is the qualification. Qualifying in South America means 18 games, playing home and away games over two years. In those two years, the coach gives the shape to the team. He tries many different players. So when the South American qualifying finishes after 18 games and two years the team is ready for the World Cup. So we don’t need six weeks or two months of preparations. Because the team is ready, the players are ready. We just have to get them together to give them the feeling of the World Cup, and to give them some rest.
In South Africa it’s different. We don’t compete in the big leagues. Only one player from South Africa is playing regularly as a starter – Steven Pienaar at Everton. He’s the only player who’s a starter in every game. There is another one in Israel – Tsepo Masilela– who is a starter but not playing every game. The others are reserves. So that’s why we need this preparation. Without this preparation we would have no chance of doing something good at the World Cup. That’s why it’s different for us. We need this preparation. It’s important. And people in South Africa have to realise that. It’s completely different.
heinnews: It must be very frustrating not having your players play at their clubs.
Parreira: Some players have not been playing for two, three months. Of if they play, they play five minutes. We get weekly reports so we know what everybody is doing. That’s why we need this preparation – to get them fit for the World Cup. That’s why the approach is different than with the Brazilian team. With the Brazilian team, we need to rest them, not prepare them. When the leagues are finished you have to rest them, not train them.
heinnews: How many of the foreign-based players do you see making the final squad?
Parreira: Maybe 7, maybe 8, maybe 9, maybe 6. We haven’t decided yet. At the end of this preparation we will be ready to say which players from overseas we need. A player who doesn’t play for six months is a headache for us.
heinnews: What do you think about Benni McCarthy’s move to West Ham?
Parreira: I think he’s experienced and he can help us during the World Cup. He’s the most experienced striker we have in the country. But he stopped playing at West Ham. We are happy that he was playing the first three games after the transfer. But now he was not even on the match day squad. That’s what the report said. So he’s becoming a headache again. So that’s why we need to have this preparation.
heinnews: How much does this World Cup mean to you, being the first in Africa?
Parreira: Of course it means a lot. We have a big responsibility for the country. The country who hosts the World Cup always wants to do well. I am not thinking about what happens if the team doesn’t advance from the first round. I’m not going to place this on my players’ shoulders. This (a host nation not reaching the second stage) will happen one day. We just have to do our best. And we are doing our best. We are training very hard. The players are very committed. I’m sure we’re going to do well there. If it’s enough to go to the next round or not, it’s up to the game. As Sepp Herberger said, 60 years ago, and I love that: “The ball is round.” It means that after the game of football starts that nobody can say what’s going to happen. I want my players to be ready and to make their country proud. And they’re going to do that. If it’s enough to qualify, I don’t know. The ball is round.
heinnews: What do you think about the group you have with Mexico, France and Uruguay
Parreira: This group is very tough. By chance, the first World Cup was played 80 years ago in Uruguay. In those days there was no qualifying for the World Cup. Teams were invited. By chance, France, Uruguay and Mexico were invited and they played in the first World Cup. So they are in the business for 80 years. People forget about this sometimes.
heinnews: What has been one of the biggest difficulties as South African coach?
Parreira: We have the problem of exchange. In Europe, players are playing against each other – in Germany, in England, everywhere. In South Africa we are too far from the rest of the world. Nobody wants to go there. Nobody wants to play there. It’s a 12-hour flight. If we invite teams, nobody wants to go there. They are reluctant to go there. When I came there I asked for the files of the friendly games that we played. And I was astonished. We were only playing local teams in the area. I said, how can we develop if we only play against teams here in the area? No way. If we do not play against the big teams in the world we are not going to improve. And then we started the process. We played Italy, we played Scotland, we went to Uruguay. We played Bolivia. We played Canada and U.S.A. We played Paraguay. We started the process of playing those games. We came to Europe and we convinced them to come to South Africa. That is the start of the process. Nobody wants to go there and play because you lose four days. In the FIFA dates people want to be in Europe and not come all the way down to South Africa and play us. So we have to go and play them. And now, it’s hard for these friendlies. We wanted to play the best teams. But those dates are already filled.
heinnews: Your contract runs out at the World Cup and you have said you will not be coming back. South African Pitso John Mosimane has been your assistant since 2006. Do you think he should be given the reigns after the World Cup?
Parreira: They have already said that they want to have a local coach. That has been decided already. I’m sorry to say to you open. But it’s not my problem.
I told people that I do not want to interfere in the process. It’s not my duty, it’s not my job. But if we keep somebody working with us for three years, pay him to watch everything we do. There is a common sense it has to be applied. The guy has been with us for three years. And he has worked with all of us who all have so much World Cup experience. He is learning everything. And he’s very keen to learn and follow what we are doing. And he knows the philosophy. I would say this is the common sense. He has been prepared now for three years to take over. If something else happens, it would be a strange decision, if you ask me.
Look at Germany with their assistants who become head coaches, Derwall, Vogts, Loew. When the coach goes after eight years and two World Cups, there is no doubt who will be the head coach.
heinnews: The 2014 World Cup will be in your home country. Do you plan on being a coach there too?
Parreira: Until December I will be enjoying my grandchildren and my house and boat outside Rio, going to the sea and relaxing. But I cannot miss the World Cup. I will give lectures and courses. After 42 years I need a break from the daily life of a coach. The World Cup is very demanding, especially as the South Africa national team coach.