CAPE TOWN – New Mother City NFD club Cape Umoya United have made a promising start to the season. Unbeaten after four games with three draws and a win, it’s a testament to the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes, both on and off the field, in establishing this new football team.
Forming a new club, especially in a professional football environment, is never easy. But the one crucial factor is to have someone with experience, who understands the ins and outs, and the unique nuances, at the root of football in South Africa. For Umoya, that man is head coach and part owner Roger de Sa.
De Sa has seen and done it all: he’s had success as a player with Moroka Swallows, Mamelodi Sundowns and Wits - and, as a coach, with clubs like Wits, Santos, Orlando Pirates and Ajax Cape Town. Now, at Umoya, he faces a different challenge, in a lower division, but it has allowed him to tap into the vast knowledge and nous he’s picked up over the years.
Umoya was formerly Rustenburg-based Platinum Stars, the club relegated from the PSL last season. De Sa gave some insight into how the new club, now based in the Mother City, came about.
“When I arrived to coach Platinum last season, the club was already up for sale,” said De Sa. “A few of the possible buyers never came through, so I found a few people who were interested. They are not football people - they are into education and what happens after football.
They needed a vehicle to drive their vision and buying this club could provide it. So we made an offer, it was accepted, and we relocated the club to Cape Town; most of us involved with the club live in Cape Town.”
But, as the new team prepared for life in the NFD, there was still a lot of hard work ahead - and, importantly, they didn’t have a lot of time.
“We had about two or three weeks to put everything together,” said De Sa. “We didn’t buy the name, so first on the agenda was to get going on a new name, badge and facilities. We started from scratch. As for the name and the badge, we sat around a table and threw in as many ideas as possible. Our offices are in Mowbray and, when you look out of the window, you can see Devil’s Peak. That view is to be found in our badge, while the name ‘Umoya’ refers to the spirit of the wind.
“We then put a squad together, of around 25 players from all over the country, and we train at the Vasco da Gama ground in Parow. I think we have managed to do quite well, and it has been a promising start.”
De Sa has lots of experience of the PSL and even took Pirates all the way to the Caf Champions League final in 2013. The NFD, therefore, is new to him, but he says he has been pleasantly surprised by the level of football.
“It’s still early days, but I don’t think there is a massive difference,” said De Sa. “There are a lot of players in the NFD with PSL experience. I think the NFD has made great strides. The only difference is in preparation, in that I don’t have all that much information on the opposition as I would have in the PSL. But it’s an adventure and an exciting challenge.”
So, with all that as background, what are De Sa and Umoya’s ambitions for the season?
“We are a new club, a new group of players, and a new everything, but we’ve started well,” said the coach. “I’m not saying we are going to win the league or anything like that, but we will give it a go.”