Wow, what kind of mindless game is Luc Eymael playing?
Free State Stars coach’s insults raise doubts about his credentials to succeed in South Africa
If humility in victory is a virtue, clearly no one ever told Luc Eymael. After coaching Free State Stars to a stirring 1-0 Nedbank Cup final victory against Maritzburg United on Saturday, Eymael, in his post-match press conference at Cape Town Stadium, rubbed the win in to all his supposed detractors.
His insults reveal a problematic aspect to the coach’s character, raising doubts about his credentials to succeed in South Africa despite being educated with a Uefa Pro Licence qualification.
Most glaring and disturbing was a dig at Steve Komphela, who resigned as coach of Kaizer Chiefs last month after three trophyless years, and is yet to win a silverware in his career, and whose job Eymael has been linked to.
Eymael, asked about his short, controversial stints at Polokwane City and then Bloemfontein Celtic, dogged by a legal wrangle over his services, said: “It was perhaps not the best decision that I have taken. But I think I participated a lot in the ranking of Polokwane last season [sixth place].“Celtic was another story. I got bad advice and I went there. And now I came to Free State Stars, second year in South Africa, one trophy. I know some of the guys who have worked 13 years without winning a trophy.”
Afterwards Eymael confirmed to a Johannesburg journalist that he was referring to Komphela. Did Komphela deserve this? Komphela and Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane have spoken out about their distaste at Eymael, in their view, campaigning for the Chiefs coach’s job. Komphela, though, never insulted Eymael.
Eymael might argue he never openly stated his desire to coach Chiefs. But the coach also, when he had the option to, never chose to not comment when asked about the subject.
Komphela rode a cacophony of insults and derision at Chiefs with unparalleled dignity, never once allowing himself to be anything less than a gentleman in the face of it.
His contribution to South African football includes a 12-year career as a professional player where he was among a path-finding generation into Europe, playing in Turkey, and captained Bafana Bafana.He has coached the South African Under-23s, been a Bafana assistant coach and caretaker coach, and brought through numerous talents in close to 15 years as a club coach. His contribution has been more than trophies, or lack thereof.
A second issue was Eymael sending an ultimatum to Chiefs. The coach said that should Chiefs not contact him about their vacant coaching job before he leaves for holiday in Belgium on Friday, he will no longer consider an offer.
But why should Chiefs give Eymael a call at all, especially after the crass statement he made about Komphela?
Amakhosi may have fallen from grace on the playing field in the last three years. But they remain a giant club run on the grounds of nothing but class by Kaizer Motaung for more than 50 years.
Has Eymael done that much, with one trophy in SA, that he should even be considered a given on Amakhosi’s radar?
Also, is that what the coach calls committing to Stars, the club where he has rebuilt his reputation (until this press conference perhaps) after the Celtic debacle – that he will commit to them if Chiefs do not come calling this week?
A third issue was Eymael making sexist comments. On two occasions the coach leeringly asked why he was not receiving questions “from the ladies”.
Eymael seemed to mean this as light banter. He has previously made flirtatious comments being interviewed on TV by female reporters. But why must female football journalists be singled out in any manner? Like the Komphela comment, this was just unacceptable.A fourth issue was Eymael starting his press conference asking if anyone from the Cape Times was present, then taking the paper to task on a story labeling the coach a “villain”.
The piece, written by a Johannesburg football writer from The Star, part of the Independent Newspapers stable, and carried in the Cape Times, lightly made the analogy that if the Nedbank final were a movie, Eymael would be the villain.
This was in reference to the coach’s tendency towards controversy and his roughness, contrasted against opposite coach Fadlu Davids’s diplomacy. The reporter suggested Eymael’s Belgian/French accent would even serve the part.
The substance of the story was that Eymael had done an excellent job turning Stars into a competitive force.
Really? Does Eymael honestly believe that he can come to South Africa and try to push people around in this manner?
So the list is: fellow coaches, South African coaches, the South African football media, women, female journalists, and the country’s greatest football club – all neatly insulted in one press conference.
Wow. Eymael might have been living in a cocoon in Bethlehem for a year, but this level of obliviousness was beyond reckless.The press conference was punctuated by insults. Eymael said if he does leave Stars, he will not resign by letter, “like some other people” – an apparent reference to current Ajax Cape Town coach Muhsin Ertugral quitting as Orlando Pirates boss by e-mail last season.
The coach constantly says that he speaks his mind, and that’s just how he is, take it or leave it. But there can be a fine line between telling it like it is, being tongue in cheek, playing mind games – as someone like Mosimane is so adept at – and being plainly boorish, rude and disrespectful.
On Saturday night Eymael crossed that line repeatedly, and not finely.
The worst part is that it takes the gloss off of Stars’ historic first trophy win since 1994. The club should consider, if not disciplining their coach, at least having a strong conversation with him.