Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Otto Pfister - saltimbanco da bola

Aqui está um aventureiro. Isto são vidas que deixem marcas. (E pegadas no pó).

Otto Pfister was one of the first German coaches, along with Peter Schnittger and Eckhard Krautzen, to head for Africa. Before he began his travels, however, he plied his trade as a player in Switzerland, enjoying a modest career with Chiasso and Grenchen before taking the step into player-management.

His first post was with Liechtenstein’s FC Vaduz, before returning to Switzerland for spells at no fewer than four clubs. The year 1972 saw him head south and make Rwanda the first step on his African adventure. He spent four years in the country, laying the foundations for the development of the national team. He then went on to do similar work in Upper Volta, or Burkina Faso as it is now known, from 1976 to 1978.

Senegal would be the third stop on his African tour, where his discipline and experienced coaching methods saw the country make a great deal of progress. He was to stay there for three years, before the lure of Côte d’Ivoire proved too strong. He repaid his new employers’ confidence in him by taking the country’s youth team to the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1983 in Mexico.

A couple of years on and the travel bug had taken hold of Pfister once more, with Zaire (now Congo DR) his destination in 1985. He spent four years trying to restore the 1974 African champions to their former glories, and was responsible for unleashing a new generation of ‘Leopards’, including Eugene Kabongo, Gaston Mobati, Panguy Merikani and Mutumbile Santos, all of whom took part in the CAF African Cup of Nations 1988.

Pfister was head-hunted once again in 1989, and this time it was Ghana who came calling. Within two years, he had guided the country’s youth team, known as ‘The Black Starlets’, to an incredible victory at the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Italy. The following year, he steered the full national side to the final of the CAF African Cup of Nations in Senegal.
Continental shiftAfter spending nigh on a quarter of a century in Africa, Pfister decided it was time for a change, and he made the move to Asia. From 1995 to 1997, he coached Bangladesh, before going on to Saudi Arabia.

His heart still belonged to Africa, however, and by 1999 he was back in his favourite continent, this time concentrating on club football. He won the African Cup Winners’ Cup in 2002 with Egyptian club Zamalek, and also had spells with Club Sportif Sfaxien (Tunisia) and Al-Masry (Egypt).

The 2006 CAF African Cup of Nations in Egypt, where Pfister was based at the time, would give the German tactician the ideal opportunity to get back into international management. Togo, under Nigerian-born coach Stephen Keshi, were struggling, and they decided to bring in Pfister some 100 days before the country's participation in their first ever FIFA World Cup.

With his in-depth knowledge and experience of African football, not to mention his vast success, his avuncular managerial style and fondness for open, attacking football, he looks to be the ideal man for the Togo job. At the age of 68, and with the chance to prove his worth back home in the country of his birth, this summer’s tournament may well prove to be the crowning moment in Pfister’s long and varied career.

no site do Mundial

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