KICK OFF …Sven a failed project

FINALLY news came from Football House on Monday that Sven Vandenbroek will not be staying in the job after failing to qualify the Chipolopolo to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

I must say FAZ president Andrew Kamanga and his league qualify to be the most patient or tolerant beings to ever lead a result-oriented organisation like FAZ.

When Sven came, he signed a nine-month contract covering the period of qualifiers.

Meaning, the Belgian had to oversee all the remaining five qualifiers. It was a performance-based contract that entailed that he was only going to stay in the job if he qualified the team, but he failed to qualify with a game in hand.

In a group that had Guinea Bissau, Namibia and Mozambique, Zambia failed.

Imagine, it is not even a usual 16-team AfCON, no! It is an expanded 26-team AfCON.

Which means out of the 54 member associations of CAF, the best 26 teams in Africa will be in Egypt come June-July and Zambia is not among those – what a shame!

This is how Zambia has failed in Group K. Before the dead-rubber coming next month against Namibia, Zambia has only four points at the bottom of the group.
Guinea Bissau top the group with eight points, followed by Namibia with eight points also, Mozambique are in third with seven which means regardless of the result in the final game, nothing changes, at least in Zambia’s case.

Shockingly, after Chipolopolo’s huge fall from grace, Sven never showed any remorse, couldn’t say sorry. He rather started making sardonic statements towards soccer-loving Zambians.

Legally, it’s right for Sven to wait to play his last game but morally it’s not. He should have gone immediately after the loss in Maputo, because he failed his contract mandate.
But the Belgian did not hide his desire to stay in the job.

Certainly Sven had supporters within the inner-circle in his bid until whatever happened, happened.

What many of us have failed to come to terms with are Sven’s statements which appeared to suggest that Zambia did not have a team to make up for the lost ground after losing the opening game on 10th June, 2017 to Mozambique.

We find that absurd because after losing that game, then interim coach Wedson Nyirenda ‘rebranded’ the Chipolopolo and we marvelled what a transformation that was, when the now mixture of young and old took the World Cup qualifiers by storm.

For the first time in 35 years, Zambia beat Algeria in both legs convincingly.

And had it not been for Botswana referee Mr Bondo’s behaviour in Uno State in Nigeria, history could have been made, but Wedson and his team were robbed that night, came back demoralised but managed a draw with Cameroon in that inconsequential final qualifying match.

After the World Cup qualifiers, there was firm belief that Wada had built a strong foundation that needed just a little touch until Sven came.

We can argue all-year-long on this matter, but I still insist, with five games remaining, Wedson could have qualified us to the AfCON going by the performances in the World Cup qualifiers because the team had started to play the football that was convincing – yes there were one or two areas that needed some work but after Algeria, Nigeria and Cameroon performances, surely it could have been a lot easier against Guinea Bissau, Namibia and Mozambique in Maputo.
I may not be a technical expert but someone needs to show me what extraordinary expertise Sven brought to the national team apart from recalling Clatous Chama who was dropped after crossing Wedson’s disciplinary line.
In my view, Sven does not qualify to be called an expatriate yet. He is still among those European journey men traversing the continent of Africa carrying bigger coaching certificates in search of luck to build their CV.

Herve Renard got his luck in his second coming in-charge of Chipolopolo in 2012 which earned him the expatriate status to start getting lucrative jobs at established teams where he has now succeeded.

But Sven’s only record of success in Africa is just that he was an assistant to fellow Belgian Hugo Broos when Cameroon won the 2017 AfCON in Gabon.

We all know that assistants rarely get the blame when the team doesn’t perform, if you know what that means.

Dear readers, football officials in FAZ, government and interest groups, the lesson we learn from all this is that an expatriate is not anyone with a different skin pigmentation from ours.

Rather, an expatriate is someone that brings or possesses extraordinary skill that is lacking among the local people in a particular field, coaching in this case.

So, if we failed to qualify to the 2017 AfCON with a local coach and we failed to the 2019 with a foreigner who is deemed to be an expert, what’s so expert about him?

Being an expert is to do what Renard did in 2012, and what Wedson did with Baroka; win them a title that previously belonged to the big boys in the PSL for the first time in their history.

In fact in the 2017 qualifiers, we pushed until the last game, lost dramatically in the last minute of game with the likes of Adrian Chama, Buchizya Mfune and others, you could clearly see the shock on George Lwandamina’s face for which he even apologised to the nation.

This time, under an expatriate, we failed to qualify with a game to spare.

Bear in mind that there was no SA camping under George. He worked long periods without pay and without a contract.

That’s how we treat local coaches always. They have to endure hardships yet we still demand Germany or Brazil-like football from them.

I have long argued that these local coaches, those that have died, like Ben Bamfuchile, Fighton Simukonda and those still living like Patrick Phiri, Honour Janza, Lwandamina, Beston Chambeshi and Wada are the most patriotic citizens to their nation because they have endured insults for accepting to work under very harsh conditions without binding contracts, and without pay in most instances.

This is a country where there is always no money to pay or camping whenever a local coach takes over the national team, we need to change our mentality.

All of a sudden FAZ doesn’t have connections to organise high quality friendly matches when a local coach takes over.

I look forward to the day when the government or FAZ will wake up to help our very committed coaches to acquire big coaching badges.

The issue here is not the opportunities but the cost, and the government can afford to pay for many of our coaches to acquire that training. After all it is the nation that will benefit.

I was at pains to stomach Sven’s ‘computer illiterate’ remark and many other remarks the Belgian has been making after his failure.

I would like to remind him that both Lwandamina and Wedson reached the quarter finals of the CHAN on two occasions with very average players in their respective teams in 2016 and 2018 without singing about computers.

Equally, Beston won a maiden Under-20 AfCON title in 2017 without gadgets on the bench and went on to reach the last eight of the FIFA World Cup.

I think you don’t need a computer to know that Rainford Kalaba and not Emmanuel Banda needed to start against Mozambique.

It’s good that Sven will not renew his contract because we were not going to win anything with him in the near future. The project failed and his theories are more of a classroom than practical tactics on the pitch.

Going forward, let’s treat all coaches fairly so that we can blame them in equal measure when they fail.

Yes we need expatriates but we need quality that can work with experienced local trainers as part of the backroom staff like Ian Porterfield did in 1994 and Roald Poulsen in 1996.

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