Black Leopards’ technical director, Stefano Cusin, went on a serious charm offensive after being announced by Lidoda Duvha on Wednesday.
The well-travelled Italian coach has been tasked with shaping Leopards’ development structures on their return to topflight football after five years in the NFD. He signed a three-year contract with Leopards.
Cusin has a long CV with stints in England as an assistant coach at Wolverhampton Wanderers and head coach gigs in UAE, Palestine, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, Bulgaria and Italy.
His job at Leopards is almost similar to the one he took in Palestine, managing a lowly Ahli Al-Khaleel side that had little financial means and he helped them to punch above their weight. When asked if he will bring Italian style to Lidoda Duvha, Cusin responded with an emphatic no before explaining why.
“This isn’t correct because we are not in Italy. We don’t have Italian players. This is the mistake that many African teams at the World Cup make. They want to play like Europe and they forget what’s in their blood. The blood is more important than the style,” Cusin said.
“We are in Africa. We have to play like African players. But it’s normal that maybe I have something to give in the positioning and tactical side. Maybe with one small information we can change a good player into a great player. But we are in Africa, we have to play in the African way and infuse the culture of the country. That’s the most important thing.”
His best trait is identifying the strengths of the club he is managing and make the most of that while hiding their weakness.
“I believe that in Africa, you have the best players in the world. Africa and Brazil,” Cusin said. “But why until now we (as Africa) haven’t won the World Cup? That’s the question. The answer can be that maybe we have to work more on the tactical side. We have to give the players all the material and methodology needed to succeed. My challenge is to build winning players, first of all.”
The 49-year-old’s list of honours includes league titles in Palestine and Libya. He has served as a technical director in Cameroon.
But that role in South African football has a bad reputation with clubs in the past having used it as a safety deposit for the man who eventually takes over from the coach when things don’t go well.
Cusin brushed aside suggestions that he is here to take over from Joel Masutha.
“It’s going to take teamwork, from the president to the players, technical team and everyone involved at the club to achieve our objectives,” Cusin said.
“Building a winning team isn’t easy. It doesn’t take one man to achieve that. It takes a team.”