A few days after being released from his post at Primeiro de Agosto, future Togo coach Paulo Duarte was kind enough to answer Football365 Africa’s questions. Exclusive interview.
Paulo Duarte, what prompted your departure from Primeiro de Agosto?
As you already know, I refused to join Togo in June to be champion in Angola. Unfortunately, in the last two games we have had a few injuries including five starting players. And we’ve lost four points in the last two games. For us, winning the title had become almost impossible. Mathematically yes but the direct opponent had the advantage in the direct confrontation. And there were only four days left. So with the club management, we decided to terminate the contract since the objective would not be reached. This will allow me to enjoy the family a little, before returning to Togo and starting the mission with the Hawks. It is also a decision to save two months salary at the club with four staff members leaving. A decision that makes life easier for everyone. It’s an amicable breakup. I’m sad because I wanted to win the title with Primeiro but with our many injuries it didn’t work out. This will also allow the club to start already by preparing for the next season and get off to a good start.
You were on a good roll for the title a few weeks ago …
Yes we were off to a good start. We were first for a good part of the season. This season, the club have sold their 4 best players. And you had to win the title with the academy players. So we started by working well but the lack of experience and the injuries weighed down our goals in the end. We have thrown almost 12 players under the age of 20 into the deep end this season. The club has a good academy. It’s the future, there is quality but it comes at a cost in some matches.
Now you are free to start your mission in Togo. Is there already an arrival date?
The objective of terminating the contract in Angola is also to focus more on Togo. Normally I had to leave Primeiro after July 17th. But they also delayed the end of the championship to July 31. But now I’m free and I can do whatever I want. First, enjoy the family for three weeks. It has been a year since I really saw my family. Then, I will arrive in Togo at least a month before our first match.
Togo did an internship in June. Did you follow the matches. What did you think of the team?
I followed both matches in Turkey. It is a young and renewed team. The coach has shown that everyone can play. He decided to see several players. A good first match with a great victory, a good second but there was no efficiency. Which benefited The Gambia. But these were preparation matches, the result was not important. The important thing was to see the behavior of the players, to see the tactics, the strategy and I think it was good overall.
Senegal awaits you in September, for the first day of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Are you confident for this match?
He is clearly the group’s candidate for the World Cup. They are the best team in Africa today. As before, the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Egypt were stronger, today Senegal is the stronger. A few months ago, I ran into this team and we missed the qualification for two points, when FIFA decided to replay a match after a year. If it wasn’t this match, Burkina Faso qualified for the World Cup. But notwithstanding all that, we have to prepare our team with the objective in mind. The objective is to go beat Senegal for this first match. Show that Togo has a future, good players and is capable of doing that.