AFTER Zambia were sent to the cleaners on Sunday in a 3-1 Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Castle Cup final defeat to Zimbabwe, the debating temperature on
the Chipolopolo coaching job situation reached beyond boiling point on social media.
Zambia boss Wedson Nyirenda was grilled with fans calling for his head.
I had to fan myself a few times. I pinched myself a few times to believe that Zimbabwe had served a bitter footballing lesson to the 2012 African football kings at a stadium fondly referred to as the ‘Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace’.
In the end, small consolation was that Warriors boss Sunday Chidzambwa, who stretched his unbeaten run in this competition to 14 with 12 wins and two draws, had a near full strength side including South Africa-based stars.
It was a case of dejavu as Chidzambwa’s dagger was responsible for the 3-1 downfall of Zambia in the November 1, 2009 final at Rufaro Stadium in Harare. The Chipolopolo coach then was Frenchman Herve Renard.
Four years later, Renard won the title beating Zimbabwe coached by former Germany school teacher Klaus Pegels 2-0 at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola. Since that time, Zambia had not reached the final until last Sunday under Nyirenda.
But pressure has mounted on Nyirenda to leave his post or Football House chief Andrew Kamanga to pull the proverbial trigger.
Remember that the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) constituted an independent panel of eminent Zambians including Ministry of Health permanent secretary John Moyo, who tragically lost his life in a road traffic accident last Saturday (MHSRIEP), among others, to select a new Chipolopolo trainer.
The grapevine had it that the committee chose South African Gordon Igesund.
FAZ general secretary Ponga Liwewe, on August 8, 2016, confirmed the appointment of an expatriate coach without divulging the name of the chosen trainer.
“We sat on Saturday as an executive committee and we have chosen the coach. So now we are engaging him on issues of personal terms and we hope by tomorrow, we can conclude and that is when I can announce the name.”
When the deal fell through, the 60-year-old Igesund later let the worst kept secret out of the bag: “I went for an interview and they [FAZ] contacted me and told me I was going to be their coach. They asked me to take myself out of the market.”
What happened? Igesund said the Zambian government did not approve his salary and that a local coach was preferred. Nyirenda was installed as boss.
It is not a ‘cards to chest’ issue that Nyirenda was appointed due to lack of funds for a foreign expatriate. FAZ planned to have the former Mozambique-based trainer come in as assistant coach.
With Nyirenda posting some unconvincing results in competitive matches at home against Nigeria (1-2) and Mozambique (0-1), fans on social media have called upon Kamanga to fire Nyirenda.
With no resources in sight to hire a foreign expatriate coach, it is akin to asking a fully grown man to drop his pants in public.
Nyirenda remains the best local coach available. Patience must be exercised for a man who helped capture the Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations crown for the first time as technical advisor.
But his player selection has left some fans fuming. Recently, the Kaiser Chiefs legend called Mwape Musonda who was injured. The Black Leopards striker failed to make the final COSAFA squad as a result.
As the team faces Swaziland in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) Kenya 2018 qualifier this weekend, it emerged Nyirenda had summoned Jackson Mwanza, who was injured. The recall of Ignatius Lwipa and Jonas Sakuwaha raised some dust too.
Since 2013, the results for Zambia have been poor. In that time, there has been Renard, Patrice Beaumelle and Honour Janza with an expatriate assistant coach Nico Labohm and George Lwandamina, who presided over the national team with little success.
Nyirenda managed to reach the COSAFA final using a second string side but lost badly against Zimbabwe.
He admitted that ‘school boy errors’ cost Zambia victory.
He needs time to make sure his charges don’t run like headless chickens as we saw in Rustenburg.
However, international football level rarely affords that time which makes CHAN qualification a ‘make or break’ assignment for Nyirenda.
A quality foreign coach, above the level of Igesund, who had a paltry 39 percent winning ratio as Bafana Bafana coach, in case of failure to qualify to Kenya, shall be needed.
That needs huge cash investment by Government and other stakeholders. Zambia’s finest moment at senior level was achieved using an expatriate. I remember former President Rupiah Banda indicating that Government backed FAZ by paying Renard’s salary, which helped the Frenchman win the Africa Cup in 2012.
A stich in time saves nine.