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Chops & boerewors in the land of the Pharaohs

Roger De Sa is the latest of many locals who are in Egypt. Do we smell a braai? He reunites with old friend Carlos Queiroz in a very bruising Pharaohs environment in hopes of qualifying for the World Cup
Thu, Oct 07, 2021

Roger De Sa in Egypt. PHOTOS: EFA Facebook

This 10-day Fifa calendar break would have been the perfect opportunity for Pitso Mosimane and Roger De Sa to braai some chops and boerewors under the Nile River's sun-kissed skylines in Cairo.

De Sa is the latest South African to invade Egypt and occupy the Pharaohs' football grounds. The former Orlando Pirates trainer has just arrived in Cairo for his toughest assignment yet as assistant coach to Carlos Queiroz, who was recently appointed as Egypt's head coach – and de Sa says that if Mosimane thinks he's going to get away with the drinks that he owes him, he's not going to have a chance.

"Yeah, I am going to find him (Pitso) all the way in Cairo, so many kilometres away from home. I am looking forward to catching up with him and other South Africans in Cairo.

"I sent him a picture that we took in 1994 at a Bafana Bafana camp in Mauritius. I was in pink shorts and he was wearing sunglasses that looked like welding glasses. You know us South Africans, we always find each other, and I am sure we are going to have lots of conversations with Pitso – and we all know that he's going to be doing all the talking," De Sa said with a big laugh.

De Sa and Mosimane (both far left) at Bafana camp in 1994. PHOTO: Courtesy of Roger De Sa

While Mosimane was enjoying a bit of a break in the Fifa calendar gap, De Sa was in the north of Egypt in Alexandria in camp with the Pharaohs, plotting the downfall of their opponents Libya, who they will face in back-to-back 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

Other South Africans flying the country's flag high in the land of the Pharaohs are Kabelo Rangoaga, Yusha Valdoya and Musi Matlaba, who are all part of Mosimane's technical staff at Africa's Team of the Century Al Ahly. Two more SA performance analysts will be heading north to join clubs in the Egyptian league.

De Sa is a veteran of the game. He reached the final of the CAF Champions League with the Buccaneers in 2013, where they were mummified 3-1 on aggregate by the Red Devils of Cairo, Al Ahly. The former acrobatic shot-stopper has coached Bafana (at the 2004 Afcon in Tunisia), Bidvest Wits, Santos, Pirates, Ajax Cape Town, Maritzburg United, Platinum Stars, Cape Umoya United, Cape Town All Stars and he is under no illusion that sitting on the bench of Egypt's national team won’t be as pleasant as sinking his teeth into a piece of juicy, scrumptious boerewors.

And it will be for the second time that De Sa works alongside the highly respected Queiroz.

De Sa and Queiroz, a former Manchester United and Real Madrid coach, were both born in Mozambique and have maintained their friendship over the years. De Sa was also part of Queiroz' technical staff for the Portugal national team during the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa.

So, if De Sa was able to work with and handle the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco, Pepe, Tiago, Bruno Alves and Ricardo Costa, to mention but a few, then he's not going to be out of his depth when he deals with the Egyptian prima-donnas.

De Sa told yours truly: "I am looking forward to this new adventure. Carlos called me and asked if I would be keen to work with him. We have known each other for many years, and he told me that he needed someone who understands and knows the African continent extensively.

"I spoke to my wife and to my family and they have always been supportive of me. They were there for me when I moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town and they were happy with me getting a big break in Egypt. I know so much about the football culture in Egypt.

"I was there with Pirates in the CAF Champions League. I know how passionate the people of Egypt are about the game, I know about the green lasers. It's a big challenge and I want to make South Africa proud and to also showcase what I have learnt over the years."

The locals are sometimes accused of being overly passionate and a bit fundamentalist about the game. The idea of a dreamy Cairo, the Nile River cruises and the Pyramids of Giza are what beautiful imaginations are made of, but the national team is no damn holiday.

Egypt will play the first leg against Libya on 8 October in Alexandria and the return match three days later at the 28 March Stadium, in Benghazi, Libya. Egypt are second in Group F after a win and a loss in their opening two matches. The Libyans lead the group – hence it is important that De Sa and Queiroz get six points in these back-to-back matches to reclaim their seat at the top of the table.

The Egyptian federation does not play games – both Queiroz and De Sa could be packing their bags home if they do not get the former African champions to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers.