A die hard football legend and coach, Pepe dos Santos shares with us how he joined Vasco along with other highlights in his career.
How did you get involved in Vasco da Gama?
I was playing for Portugal on Sundays for the IFA. It was a fantastic league- very popular, very exciting. There was a guy who formed Vasco,Mossie de Nobrega, and he decided he had had enough. We went to see Parow United and we came to an agreement that Vasco would move to Parow. Vasco then became a household name in the so called amateur part of the game.
You know with my brother (Sergio) as coach, they won everything the one year. They played the most incredible football with amazing players.
Which Vasco player did you enjoy watching most?
Carlos das Neves was a genius. He was probably the best Portuguese footballer made in South Africa. He was beautifully built. He was built like a footballer should be built. Some guys are too short; others are too tall, too thin or too fat. He was perfectly built and he was about 5ft8. Perfect gravity. This guy was unbelievable and a joy to watch. There were others but he stood out above the rest.
You were not just a player in your day but you coached at the same time. Tell us about that…
As a professional I was probably the very first player-coach at 24-years of age. I did that for many years. I retired when I was 31 and then I became a professional again at 39- a player-coach again! I played local Premier League in Camps Bay at 52 years of age with one of my son’s playing with me in the same team. I finished my senior career playing against Vasco.
What made you become a player-coach?
I was very strong minded and I knew what I wanted. I felt that the players needed my guidance on the field. I never made myself the captain, but I thought the players needed me to pass my knowledge to them. I know exactly what soccer is all about myself. I pass my knowledge on now, I still coach.
What is the first thing you teach your boys?
There is a shortage of coaches and they are usually so badly coached that when they come to me they start all over again. The first thing I do, and this is for life, is common sense. We all have common sense. A slow common sense, a fast, an obvious or a not so obvious common sense. I tell them to ‘use your common sense. If you think you don’t have it, you are wrong. Find it’. You cannot play soccer without common sense because it is a leveler. Then of course comes the physical part that is important.
Would you say common sense is the biggest obstacle that footballers have to overcome nowadays?
Always and until the end of time. In this world if you don’t have common sense, even in business, you are dead or you just have a very clever partner (laughs). Common sense applies everywhere.
Tell us about your brother Sergio as a player. Who would you say was better?
That is unfair. First of all I brought him down here. I taught him to speak Portuguese; I taught him how to run and how to play soccer. I brought him up. I had a very,very tough upbringing. I have muscles in places where others don’t have places for muscles- so I could do things he could not do. I loved watching him because he was a genius. He made up for it with his so called ‘common sense’. He played football with top players and he was unbelievable. I loved watching him play, he was like a painter. He made soccer look so simple. I was an outright striker and he was a cool midfielder- he played a different game from what I did. If he had been brought up like me in Portugal he would have been one of the best footballers in Europe.
How was Sergio as a coach and a captain?
To me, he was the best in Cape Town. Nobody in Cape Town was like that. He was an even more outstanding coach. He coached KaizerChiefs and he was the first white guy to play for Kaizer Chiefs. He captained an international tournament here. It was the Springboks, the Blacks, the coloureds and the continentals. He captained the continentals and he won it- he was unbelievable! I am very proud; he is my favourite person and a kind hearted person.
Shaun Bartlett said you gave him the best advice in his whole career, what is the story behind that?
There is a story behind that. I came back from Durban and joined Vasco da Gama. I was like a player-coach and during these games there was this youngster. A coloured guy who dribbled, dribbled and dribbled through everybody and when lost the ball he just stood there. He didn’t even try to come get it back.
At half time I sat the guys down and this youngster was looking at Table Mountain. I said, ‘Hey you, you want to play in the second half?
Then you better turn around and listen to what I am about to tell you.’
I said I would play him upfront and he could dribble as much as he liked and he didn’t have to come back. One time he dribbled six guys in a row- they were all sprawled on the ground. I told him he was wasting his time in this second team – he was too good. I chatted to him and told him ‘You are a star’. I phoned a guy at Cape Town Spurs and he said ‘bring him!’ The rest is history.
What do you think about the South African Premier League?
Our league is very good. Within five years Europeans will be coming here looking to play. It will be big. The league is tough.
Who would you choose between Barcelona and Real Madrid?
Barcelona – that is another story. I don’t like them. You know I play for the over 45s and we play like Barcelona. Pass, pass, because we don’t have legs!
I don’t fall asleep when Real Madrid plays because they are unbelievable. Very few Barcelona players can play for Real Madrid. They are not lazy and they have guts.
Your thoughts on Lionel Messi?
Very good, but he is good because of the way they play. They (Barcelona) play for him and when he plays for Argentina he is a nobody because he hasn’t got the guts.
He transforms the game from A to B. He can only play A and when they play B for Argentina he is a nothing. He doesn’t touch the ball! He becomes just another player.