Joel Santana couldn't resist the
lure of the World Cup [AFP]
Flamengo coach Joel Santana is set to take over the South African national team two years before the country hosts the 2010 World Cup.

Santana will start coaching South Africa after Flamengo's final playoff game against Botafogo for the Rio de Janeiro state championship on May 4, the club said Tuesday.

"He told me he'll earn more in 30 months than he's earned in 30 years," Flamengo vice president Kleber Leite said.

"Due to the gratitude Flamengo has for him, we couldn't refuse. His dream is to command a national team in the World Cup.”

Morio Sanyane, spokesman for the South African Football Association, would not confirm Santana's appointment.

"We are not in a position to make an announcement," Sanyane said.

"We are still finalizing internal processes. We can't comment. We are working on it. We have to tie up loose ends.''

Carlos Alberto Parreira resigned Monday as South Africa coach to return to Brazil to be with his family and ill wife. He reportedly recommended Santana as his replacement.

Santana said the offer was too good to turn down.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime proposal,'' he said.

"To compete in the World Cup is the dream of every (soccer) professional.''

Heart broken

Santana, who has coached Flamengo four times, was seen as a miracle-worker last year after he took the club from the relegation zone to third place in the national tournament and a berth in the Copa Libertadores this year.

"I joked with the players that it was their fault, because this move is possible only because of the team's good performance,'' Santana said.

"I'll leave with a broken heart. It's much more a professional decision than emotional.''

Flamengo's players also lamented Santana's impending departure.

"The feeling is that we've lost a member of our family,'' wingback Leo Moura said.

"Joel was very important for all the players on the team.''

Midfielder Toro, who gained a starting berth despite occasional disciplinary problems, said Santana was a key to his recovery on the team.

"He's a great coach, and we'll root for his success at the World Cup,'' Toro said.

Source: Agencies