Monday, February 14, 2011

The Bigger Picture

I  am going to call this column the Bigger Picture because I believe as a coach one needs to look beyond the beautiful dribble a football player does (though it is an important part of the game), to the effect it has on the rest of the team, the supporters and the game as a whole! We need to be aware of the confidence levels of the given player at that stage and how the move translates itself into the team’s game strategy…….! I recently also learnt that one needs to look beyond the guy sponsoring the team as not all of them are endowed with the necessary technical acumen and sadly most are not aware of that fact!

Sorry I forgot to introduce myself. Well it all starts in New Lobengula, Bulawayo, home to a few boys that had a lot of football going on eMbejini or kuMoney Game as it is known in H! Bongani Mafu played juniors football for eMhlangeni a youth club in Makokokoba, for Ascot Menton, and for PTC in the city of Kings before migrating to Plumtree where he played for Plumtree FC and Border Kings FC after a stint in a French University. Plumtree FC provided a bit of playing experience but Bulawayo was always calling! In Bulawayo, Christian Brothers College provided a beautiful launching pad for an educated attack on the art of coaching. He attained Coaching Certificates Level 1, Level 2 and hoorah…level 3 and then the Advanced Level all taught by the then Gurus of coaching in the country, ROY BARRETO, BENNEDICT MOYO, REINHARDT FABISCH, BOB LINES and the ‘prophet’ BEN KOFFIE of Ghana who we thought mad in his predictions of what the country’s football would need to bridge the gap. Was he??? Sorry I am not getting involved!

Involvement in the Bulawayo Coaches Association as secretary with BARRY DAKA chairman, KEUTSEPILEMANG NDEBELE treasurer and the late RIOT NCUBE as a committee member saw a lot of work to produce qualified coaches most of who are coaching in the Premier League and some who have actually coached the National Team! Not bad for an association that was inexistent at the start of our term in office I must say. This all culminated in Mafu being sent in 1998 with the late NEWTON MARUWA of Mutare, to Germany to do the DFB Coaching Licence in Hennef September 1998, where he came tops in the whole group’s written exams and attained an excellent result in the practical! Back to Zim and Mafu brought Mr HOTSTE KRIETE (actually) to run a level three coaching course for our coaches held at Ross Camp with the current National Team coaches CHARLES MHLAURI and WILLARD KHUMALO attending.

Zimbabwe Saints took a liking to Mafu and he was offered the job of Head Coach and worked with GIBSON HOMELA manager and LAZURUS ZIMANGI assistant coach. That year 98/99 season as Head Coach Mafu’s Zimbabwe Saints beat Dynamos 3 – 1 at BF to come third in the League! (Sorry mdara MHOFU but you being the epitomy of our local coaching standards I just couldn’t resist!)

In 2000 to 2001 Mafu made the mistake of leaving Zim for the so called green pastures of Bots where he was Head Coach of Gaborone United. There were 5 games to go in the league, the team needed 6 points to stay in the league and Mafu got the team 7 points after recruiting MANDLA BALANDA and CHRIS KAHWEMA but Gaberone United were still relegated due to points deducted for an early season misdemeanour of fielding an unregistered player! Mafu had done his job he felt, but the authorities wanted a far reduced contract and Mafu who had a good teaching job at Phakalane was not going to get involved! Blah blah blah! The league was good and Mafu had good Batswana players like Kabelo and Dipsy Selolwane who went to the States that same year.

What is this you must be thinking?  A self promoting column? Well the editor did not say otherwise and the last thing we need here is people saying who the biscuits is this guy? Now you know! Call him Coach! That’s it. Coach. In 2002 Mafu went to the UK and joined Dorchester Town under 16s as Head Coach. The team had not been that impressive but we managed to change the training ethics and the boys are flying now and most play in the reserve side! Now he comes back every summer to do some real ‘on the ground’ football coaching. He has been to Italy, France and is going to Holland to continue learning football coaching approaches and strategies. (Mdara Mhofu and Gidiza are still to give him the address to enable him to go to BRAZIL!)

Mafu has two footballing sins that you need to know about. He absolutely loves Arsenal FC in the UK and thinks they have the best example of how football should be played! Mafu also thinks his little brother RONALD ‘GIDIZA’ SIBANDA is the best natural ball player he has ever seen, and predicted the boy will be playing National Team when the boy was in Form 1…. Those told are still alive! And those two sins Mafu has no regrets about!

Mafu currently lives in the UK with the Mrs and has a son Alvin who plays for Compton Rovers FC under 15s, a daughter Natasha who is pretty talkative.

Now the article, starting from the top, I strongly believe we (with ZIFA leading the way) need a mission statement readily recognisable by all stakeholders from the school player, the casual player, the parent in Mvimvi (that’s where my wife hails from) or Mphoengs and the Zifa Chairman! If we had a mission to produce the ‘best player to represent the country at the highest level possible’ maybe we will start having the best district player representing his/her region, the best player in a schools tournament being whipped up to the next level then the next till the highest possible level!

Why all this drivel about mission statements? Well we need to have a direction, a ‘raison d’etre’ clearly spelt out; for I have watched on many occasions our Junior National teams having brilliant players who disappear into oblivion soon after the age group is knocked out! Why is this I have always wondered? Well my assessment of the situation is that because the coaches and players involved are not looking at the BIGGER PICTURE, the players chosen are not the right age, passports are altered and Johnny Comegood plays a blinder in a game meant for his younger brother only to fade away when snatched up by a hopeful club hoping to come up with the surprise find of the season!

A few years ago I was selector in chief, for want of a title, (fresh from Germany) when we selected the Under 17 team. Age mattered in that selection and coaches from all over ZIM were involved: the result? That squad produced long lasting National Team and Premier League players, the likes of TAPIWA KAPINI, SAGEBY SANDAKA (any chance of staying your age?), SILENT KATUMBA, CEPHAS CHIMEDZA and Ernest Gava  (what happened to you?) among others!

If a National Team coach believes he has to win a given tournament to stay in charge, he will do anything to win, sadly most have turned a blind eye on the age factor and they and their cooked up teams have lost! An older person in any age capacity seems to be less daring than a younger person. Look at how they dress at 15 or 16! Definitely not like the 21s, so if you play a 21 at a 15s match he will be superior in his mental stability but not necessarily daring enough to come off his shell when the team is losing and for him, having travelled with the team on a trip might be the pinnacle of his life…. He has achieved at last! A proper 15 year old might be looking forward to making the next age group next year!

With the same Mission for everyone, the country will see an aim for playing the best available at all levels being a priority and the production of a feeder system that should see at least 4 or 5 of the players in our Senior National Team coming from given age groups. I say 4 or 5 because some will then hopefully join in from the legion of players playing in reputable FOOTBALL leagues around the world, note that I did not use the word foreign based footballers because that implies playing away from home and does not necessarily mean playing quality football (we will address this issue soon) or simply coming from other local clubs.

Sustained continuity should be the name of the game.

The BIGGER PICTURE will endeavour to discuss issues relevant to improving the thinking behind our game, so, till next time, and please do go to the stadiums; it is one of the few things that you as football supporter can do to improve the quality of football played in our land!

(The simpler the better)