Game ON! with BENEDICT TEMBO
IN THE run-up to the start of the soccer season, players’ transfers dominate the headlines.
However, the movement of coaches has energised the 2018 pre-season transfer window.
With clubs playing in Africa, Green Buffaloes, Zanaco and Zesco United – having almost completed their signings, focus is undoubtedly on the two Dynamos – Power and Lusaka, Kabwe Warriors and Nakambala Leopards who have signed new coaches.
Power, after partying company with veteran coach Daniel Kabwe following an uninspiring run last year, have engaged former Zanaco midfielder Kelvin ‘Amazulu’ Kaindu with the hope of rekindling the club’s quest for honours.
Warriors, in their bid to reclaim their magnificent touch, have roped in Tenant Chilumba who fell out of favour at Napsa Stars to replace Elijah Chikwanda.
Dynamos have captured Kabwe to take over from fellow veteran trainer Patrick Phiri who has returned to Mazabuka to rebuild Leopards.
All the movements at coaching level are as a result of unmet expectations last season and the clubs have reacted by refreshing the technical benches.
Kabwe, who was hired in 2016 to take over from Chilumba, has left Arthur Davies Stadium after a one-and-half years stay.
This was Kabwe’s third stint at Arthur Davies, his first was in 2000 when he returned from Swaziland but was snapped up by his former employers, Zanaco, after only three months.
In 2004, Kabwe was at the helm at Power yet again when the Zanaco bank transferred him to Kitwe – coaching the Yellow club in the afternoons only.
Big spenders, Dynamos pointed the gun at Phiri and pushed him through the exit door after failing to win the 2017 league title.
Dynamos found it unacceptable that with the Chris Mugalu-led foreign players at his disposal, including stars such as Cletus Chama and Fwayo Tembo, Phiri was faulted despite the club failing to honour issues of bread and butter to the squad for long spells during the season.
Warriors, despite surviving relegation under Chikwanda purged the entire coaching bench and roped in Chilumba who has come with his two assistants Hillary Makasa and Douglas Mwamba, who once played at Godfrey Chitalu Stadium before pursuing professional careers in South Africa and Denmark respectively.
The widely-travelled Phiri has returned to the club he left at the end of 2015 for Forest Rangers where he spent the 2016 season before being lured by Dynamos last year.
The arrival of the four coaches at their respective bases will stir the transfer market because they are expected to reinforce their squads in critical positions.
Power, for instance, have been very quiet on the transfer and market should give Kaindu a free hand to bring players he feels should give him the results.
Kaindu, who spent six years drilling Highlanders, Triangle and How Mine in the Zimbabwean Premier League, brings to Arthur Davies a wealth of experience and a touch Power may have been lacking.
Kaindu spent a good six years in Zimbabwe reforming various clubs and his success there is what has inspired Power to fall for him.
Two league runners-up positions with Highlanders as well as being Mbada Cup Winners after eight years without silverware and led Triangle to fourth position, the highest ever finish for the club.
Highlanders are one of Zimbabwe’s glamorous clubs with a huge fan base across the country.
At How Mine, he was the first coach to start and finish a season and finished two full seasons.
Kaindu also led How Mine to second spot in the Chibuku Cup last year.
He also holds the distinction of being the first coach to pass 40 points at How Mine.
With Kitwe readying for the mother of derbies following the promotion of Kitwe United to the Super Division, Power will surely not want to be the tail but the top in Kitwe.
The same applies to Kabwe who should have a say on the number and quality of foreign players he desires unlike the current arrangement where officials have been imposing players on the coach.
Chilumba, too, wants to see the colour of the Zambia Railways Limited money as he begins his stint at Warriors, where soccer fans’ expectations are very high.
The stakeholders are impatient to see Warriors begin to dominate the soccer scene instead of battling relegation like was the case last year.
Bringing Chilumba should also signal the club’s desire to bring stability to the coaching bench as opposed to frequent changes.
For Phiri, his return to Nakambala should help him rebrand from being a rolling stone to a stable coach and take the Zambia Sugar Plc-sponsored side to cloud nine.
Like Chilumba, Phiri is arriving in the Zambia Sugar Plc plantation to revive Nakambala which survived relegation last season by a whisker.
With Southern Province having three Super Division teams, the contest between newly-promoted Green Eagles, Monze Swallows and Nakambala will give the region a new dimension as soccer fans will be itching for derbies.
But while fans will be looking forward to derbies, there will be a silent contest by the three teams to be the best in the region.
Chilumba and Kaindu’s capture by Warriors and Power respectively shows the desire to show faith in younger coaches while Dynamos and Nakambala have retained confidence in the old guards in Kabwe and Phiri.
So, the league will continue to be a balance between old and young coaches.
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