Flamengo coach Joel Santana is set to fly to the rescue of 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa following the departure of his Brazilian compatriot Carlos Alberto Parriera.
Parreira, appointed in February 2007, announced Monday he was quitting his post due to his wife’s ongoing illness.
Although reports have yet to be confirmed by the South African federation, it appears South Africa may have found a solution to their dilemma.
Brazilian giants Flamengo claim on their website that Santana will take over South Africa once the Carioca championship is concluded. It seems to be supported by the fact that some players have already been told of Santana’s imminent departure.
“Joel will take over as coach of the South African national team after the final of the Carioca championship,” Flamengo’s vice-president Kleber Leite said on the club’s website www.flamengo.com.br.
Santana has little international experience, apart from brief stints with clubs in Saudi Arabia and Japan, but said the chance to lead a national team into the World Cup was once of his lifetime dreams.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said, admitting that leaving the Brazilian giants had left him “heartbroken”.
Leite added: “He (Santana) told that me that he will earn in 30 months more than he has earned in the last 30 years. His dream is to coach a national team at a World Cup.”
After hearing the news late Monday some of the team’s players were emotional.
Joel Moura said: “It’s like we’re losing one of the family. But at the same time we’re happy he’ll get the chance to work at the World Cup.”
Midfielder Toro added: “He was a very important coach for me personally, and helped me find my way back into the team. He’s a great coach, and we all hope he does well at the World Cup.”
Parreira guided Brazil to their fourth world title in 1994 and has opted to quit a month after being lauded when South Africa gave their finest display for years to outclass Paraguay 3-0 in a Pretoria friendly.
Victory over in-form Paraguay came soon after South Africa made a lacklustre first round exit from the African Nations Cup in Ghana following draws with Angola and Senegal and a heavy loss to Tunisia.
It was the first time in 10 attempts that Bafana Bafana (The Boys) defeated South American opposition since being readmitted to international football in 1992 after three decades of isolation.
Parreira said he would continue to assist South Africa as a technical advisor and believes the national team will perform with distinction at the World Cup.
South Africa are guaranteed a place at the first World Cup to be staged in Africa as hosts, but must compete in the 2010 qualifiers because they double as elimination matches for the African Nations Cup in Angola the same year.
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