It was during an interview with one local radio station when Gaborone United (GU) coach Rodolfo Zapata said his team “plays football while others play soccer”.
For many, these utterances were a viewed as a slight on other teams by the Argentinian coach. As GU struggled through the first few games this season, Zapata’s utterances became a butt of many a jokes.
Despite these early struggles and the constant jokes, the Argentinian has made it known he will not forsake his style of play.
“Something that I want to say, and it is hard for me, is, sometimes we can win or lose but we are always going to play an offensive (style of) football,” the Argentinian national said.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday on the eve of his team’s clash with Extension Gunners, Zapata was adamant he demanded from his team a certain playing style.
“We always try to attack and be the dominating team,” the GU mentor explained. “It is a risky style because we always try to attack and we leave some space in our defence,” the GU gaffer explained.
“In Botswana football, nobody attacks. Everybody plays counter attack. Sometimes it is hard for us to play against some teams which are very defensive, play with 10 players behind the ball, have one chance, score and start wasting time to kill the game,” he explained.
However, while many try to take the mickey out of the Argentinian gaffer, for Sports Analyst Kagiso Phatsimo, who interviewed him in the now notorious radio interview, the coach’s impact at GU is starting to show.
“When Zapata came to GU, the team had no identity of its own. Ever since he arrived in the scene, he tried to create an identity for the team and the DNA is visible,” Phatsimo explained.
Concerning Zapata’s utterances about his team playing “football as opposed to soccer”, Phatsimo had this to say: “He explained that his team had to be able to retain the ball and possess the game. He was worried that right now, local teams cannot make at least 10 or more passes and instead wanted to play what we call power football, which he, on the other hand, calls soccer. He wants to play football that is easy on the eye,” Phatsimo explained.
According to Phatsimo, while it is taking a little bit longer to entrench the style, GU under Zapata has some sense of direction.
“If you look at GU right now, some players who were part of the team when Zapata came have left. The players in his team right now are the ones who are very comfortable on the ball and on attack,” he said.
He observed that while GU may have dropped a bit compared to last season, overall, the players had improved, more especially in terms of technique and ball retention.
Phatsimo was, however, quick to observe that despite Zapata seeking to play in a certain way, it will be difficult for him to get exactly what he wants.
“We have to take into consideration that he finds at his disposal players who have grown up playing ‘soccer,’ not ‘football’ as he calls the game. It will therefore take time before they are finally able to play the way he wants and they will lose games in the process,” Phatsimo concluded.