JOHANNESBURG – If the Nedbank Cup final was a movie, Fadlu Davids would be the hero with his good looks and likeable personality and Luc Eymael would be the villain with the way he courts controversy.
The French-laced English the Belgian coach speaks with, fits the villain look. But in the eyes of Free State Stars fans and management, Eymael is a hero. He has transformed Ea Lla Koto from a team that consistently fought to avoid relegation to finishing sixth in the PSL and now they are one match away from winning a trophy for the first time in over two decades.
For Stars to win, they have to get past Maritzburg United tomorrow in the Nedbank Cup final at Cape Town Stadium. Luckily for Eymael this isn’t a movie where the good guy always wins, life and football has no such rules. In fact, more often than not in football and in life the good guy tends to finish last.
“You can never please everyone,” Eymael said. “That’s the main thing about life. You can be the nicest girl and the nicest man in the world, and I am not that because I am old now, I don’t look that good, but even if you’re the most beautiful person in the world - you will not be loved by everyone.”
“You will always have people who are jealous and people who will criticise you. For me what is the most important thing is that my players are happy and the board is happy. If the fans are happy, then I am happy.”
Eymael comes across like a nightmare to work with. He barks instructions like a mad man and isn’t afraid to cut his own players down to size if he feels they aren’t doing their job. But he also does a good job in building those players up, making them believe that nothing is impossible.
“I am an iron fist inside a velvet glove,” Eymael chuckled.
This iron fist is on the verge of punching Stars to new frontiers should they win the Nedbank Cup final. Not only would the club get a cool R7million cheque, lift a major trophy for the first time since 1994, but they will also represent South Africa in the Caf Confederation Cup next season.
“For me it would be an honour to go back to the Confederation Cup,” Eymael said. “I didn’t know that Free State Stars had never played in that competition. It would be an honour to take Free State Stars there for the first time.”
“I don’t know why people (in South Africa) complain when they play in Africa.”