Roland Duchatelet was interviewed live on Belgian television yesterday (Sunday). The following translation of the section of the interview which dealt with football is by Heather McKinlay.
Presenter: STVV doing well – must please the owner and chairman, RD, welcome.
RD - Yes, a relief. Football is sometimes good, sometimes bad. The meaning of football for me is for people to meet and enjoy themselves and (at STVV) it’s always a party - we always have dancing after the match – that’s the tradition there.
Presenter: Last month you were 70 – belated congratulations – also an age to look back on things. But your sporting activities are still topical. Emails have recently come to light in the media in England that you sent a while ago to the former coach of Charlton, your club there. We have a few extracts from them (shows the Thuram email and the tactics one). Do you still support the sending of those emails?
RD Yes, of course, that was just after we had bought Charlton. That involved an awful lot of money – buying such a club in England. We had of course thoroughly investigated everything with our scouts beforehand, screened all the players one by one, what they were good at it, what they were not good at, the kind of mistakes they made etc. Our scouts knew them much better, I think, than the coach who was there. Then we also brought in half a dozen players whom we knew and the coach didn’t know and we tried to help the man, while the team were more or less last in the division.
Presenter: Should the sporting staff not have independence?
RD: I think in principle they were independent. They could make their own decisions. (Presenter makes a gesture suggesting they might be moved out and RD begins to get irritated.) If people don’t understand, if the coach could not understand, that he was getting help, and threw that help in the rubbish bin, when he was getting all these players whom he didn’t know, and he thinks he can continue without the advice from outside, well, then he is not a clever person and those who think the same are also not clever. In principle we were giving them the advice so they had responsibility and could take responsibility and that is how we work. I find it very stupid that a person who is getting help, an important person for the club, does not accept it. I also find that the activists, some activists at the club, who from their reactions think the coach was right, well they are just stupid people too.
Presenter: So imagine if the head of the Belgian FA (?) sent a letter to Roberto Martinez saying select him or select him, you would find that OK?
RD: Yes, I do it with other coaches, certainly at the beginning. It’s good for a coach that there is consideration/ discussion. When STVV were regularly losing and letting in a couple of goals a game, I called in the coach and said, you can do what you want but you have to stop letting in two goals or we’ll never win a match, bad football, whatever, but no more two goals conceded each match. He went away and thought about and changed some players and you see the results. I think it is good that there is such discussion.
Presenter: Moving on. Charlton – there is a group there, some supporters, I won’t say all supporters, who are strongly protesting. (Describes protest and shows footage of the birthday encounter and the coffin). Is this situation still retrievable?
RD: Football is itself emotional, of course, but there are a number of people behind this who are doing it for all sorts of reasons.
Presenter: They are not real supporters, you are saying?
RD: They are activists acting out of other considerations than pure interests of the club. Of course when things are not going well with the club…It is not the first time. It is the third time. (Presenter points to a picture of the taxi). They started it when I let that famous trainer go – the one who was only getting a point per match. Then Jose Riga came in and with all the other players that the other coach had said were bad players, got 1.5 points per match and saved the club, then it all stopped.
Presenter: With all these things going on are you not planning over time to sell the club?
RD: Look, no, yes, well, I got into football in the first place as a sponsor. I think I have done a reasonable job but I am also not planning to be doing this forever. It’s unexpected that I’m now back in football at STVV because the club had to be sold by the former to someone else and there wasn’t anyone and it was also an annoying situation, but actually I think that I can input much more in other areas – in social/ economic areas.
Presenter: We’ll come to that. So now that you are 70 have you not had enough with these clubs?
RD: Well, for a while, it is now two years since I sold Standard. Football for me has become less important. I have done calculations – I will only reach a certain age.