How Coaching Highlanders Was A Bad Idea.


Mortezza, Jimmy and Bob.

If one is too young and tastes too much success too early, it can be too disastrous, especially if you like to have things too perfect and you have too much expectation of yourself. There was no doubt Highlanders FC needed to move a level up after the disappointing Sable de Batie heartache, in the Africa Champions League in the year 2000. They headed for another, exactly 12 months later. I had done my studies of African football.I had road-shows lecturing football and doing coaching courses. I had an academy and club to run and everything was in overdrive.

Amazulu Football Club Director, Delma Lupepe wanted to give me the job as Football Director at his club.I was recovering from KFA heartache because the academy could go ahead without a sponsor. Lupepe had lined up an official club car, a good salary and school fees for children at the prestigious private school.

The biggest problem there was his football executive committee. They liked Charles Mhlauri and even then, they did not accept to have all these pecks that Mhlauri was not afforded. As fate would have it, the day to finalise the contract, Lupepe had flown out for an urgent business meeting. At that point, Bosso had announced the coaching department line-up and I was still weighing my options. Money lost to passion and I had a good excuse to deny a huge contract when Lupepe came back after that weekend.

With Rahman Gumbo as head coach and Willard Khumalo as assistant, Ernest Maphepha was the Manager and getting into sync with all the people was not easy. The toughest part was always going to be compromising on the philosophies and different schools of thought. Gumbo had a work routine that only me wanted to change. It worked for him before and he was comfortable with it. It was solely a case of balancing the technical and tactical jobs and choosing the correct peak periods not to burn out before the climax or hitting peak after climax. Getting results was his baby, but then the line here was thin as you could imagine.  

Those moments were always interesting and challenging and were an education I got as much as I gave. The tact of dealing with players was one thing I got from Rahman. The only problem was that I went into it far too early and somehow unprepared for the way the system was set up. While my services were essential, starting at the top of a new environment for me was overwhelming, but then, I had been Gumbo’s Instructor and could not deputise him. The compromise to have top-notch bulls in the same kraal was never going to be easy and we both lost our jobs. The Chairmen expected to have one towing the line of the other and it was not going to be possible. It was conceived that either the Technical Advisor is not good or the Coach was not taking advise.

The turning point of things was the trip to Tanzania for a Champions League fixture against Young Africans. We did our best to pull off a draw in Dar-es-Salaam and then assumed that we had the match wrapped up. While training preparation catered for the problems we encountered in Tanzania, during the match at BF, the same problem arose and despite our communication to have the situation rectified, nothing changed and the assumption was that the technical department was blind. This came from blind men.

My next job after that, was the International Olympic Solidarity Committee course on Youth Development for youth and women coaches as well as school teachers, one of the best programmes FIFA has, to develop junior coaches the game the world over. The head instructor was Mortezza , a FIFA Instructor. Ben Moyo, Nelson Matongorere, Jimmy Malomo formerly of Tanganda and Green Buffaloes and Bob Lines, then Coaches National Chairman were also in attendance.

It was a huge class that was graced by the presence of former Zimbabwe President Canaan Banana, who claimed to share my grandmother’s roots because he could speak a little of my foreign language, and then ZIFA Chairman Leo Mugabe. Former Caps United coach, Geshon Ntini was still coach of Caps United under 18 team and showed the potential to be the coach he went on to become.

If I had taken the Amazulu job, who had pressure to win the league but no Champions League assignment, it was going to be a different ball game. Usuthu would have been treading on new ground and all of us would have been singing the same tune. There are no regrets for being Highlanders Technical Advisor but then, the very good lessons leant at that time were tied to the big rock and sunk into the sea by then Chairman, a great man and manager indeed. Were it not for the impulsive behaviour of James Mangwana Tshuma at that point, Bosso would have won the Champions League by now, actually, the following year.

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