Former Argentinian second division goalkeeper Rodolfo Zapata was today unveiled as the new head coach of the Digicel Junior Bula Boys for the upcoming FIFA U20 World Cup in Indonesia.
Fiji Football Association President Rajesh Patel said Zapata has been appointed on a one year contract and there is an option to extend his contract based on his performance.
Patel said Zapata, who arrived in Fiji a few days ago will guide the team alongside Ronil Lal who guided the team to qualify for the World Cup after finishing second behind New Zealand in the OFC U19 Championship in Tahiti last year.
“We have decided to get to the next stage at the World Cup and we need a professional coach that can lead the team. This coach will groom the Under 19 players and that will be the platform for the Under 23 qualifiers in September.”
“He has coached teams in the South African continental and he comes with a lot of knowledge and plans. When we interviewed him with the technical director, Zapata came out to be the best.”
“As we progress, it’s not that local coaches do not have talent but there are limitations to certain things and as you progress to the next stage, you need the best capable people to lead the team. That’s why we chose a professional coach who comes with a lot of experience and has been to the World Stage which will also set an example to the youngsters that are budding football stars.”
“We have done this in the past as well before qualifying for the Under 20 World Cup to the Olympics. It’s another good opportunity with the coaches we have now. A lot of coaches are learning up fast how programs are established on and off the field.”
Due to consecutive knee injuries, Zapata retired from playing football and started his coaching career.
Zapata was the head coach of the USA Olympic Development Program from 2001 to 2009 which was a national process for identifying and developing best youth footballers who later represented USA at the World Cup and Olympics.
In January 2010, he was based in Akure City, where he was the Head Coach of Nigeria Professional Football League team Sunshine Stars FC.
A year later, he was appointed to be the head coach of MP Base Aces FC in South Africa before he headed to coaching Gaborone United in the Botswana Premier League and in 2019 under his guidance, Township Rollers FC won the 2018-2019 edition of the Botswana Premier League which qualified for the 2019-2020 Africa Champions League.
Before coming to Fiji, in 2021 he coached Mukura Victory Sports in the Rwanda Premier League and signed a contract with the AS Los Angeles last year.