Discipline at the core of soccer success


LEGENDARY retired football manager Sir Alex Ferguson is revered among many people in the sport as one of the most successful coaches to

have ever graced the game.
The Scottish-born former Manchester United coach has won almost everything that is there to be won in world club football, boasting of 13 English Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two UEFA Champions League titles among others.
According to a report on, key to Ferguson’s success in his managerial career was that he placed discipline as his highest priority.
“The Scottish manager won 13 Premier League titles but famously fell out with the club’s top stars, with Jaap Stam and David Beckham among those famously sold after falling foul of Fergie.
“I place discipline above all else and it might have cost us several titles…,” Ferguson said in his recently released book titled ‘Leading’,” The Independent writes.
In a case study compiled by Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse for the October 2012 edition of the Harvard Business Review the legendary manager revealed secretes to his managerial success.
“If the coach has no control, he will not last. You have to achieve a position of comprehensive control. Players must recognise that as the manager you have the status to control events. Before I came to United, I told myself I wasn’t going to allow anyone to be stronger than I was. Your personality has to be bigger than theirs. That is vital.
“There are occasions when you have to ask yourself whether certain players are affecting the dressing-room atmosphere, the performance of the team, and your control of the players and staff.
“If they are, you have to cut the cord. There is absolutely no other way. It doesn’t matter if the person is the best player in the world. The long-term view of the club is more important than any individual, and the manager has to be the most important one in the club,” Ferguson is quoted by British writer Mark Ogden in The Telegraph.
Ferguson’s experience with ill-disciplined players is not peculiar to him, world over football coaches have had to strike a balance between cracking the weep on their most talented players and achieving success for their team.
For some it has worked, as they have gone on to achieve success even after axing their top players while for others the opposite has happened.
Chipolopolo coach Wedson Nyirenda has just found himself in a similar situation where the conduct of some of his most prized possessions has not been at its best in terms of discipline.
It started on June 10 during a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations match against Mozambique at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, when midfielder Rainford Kalaba went straight to the dressing room after being substituted in the second half, showing a clear sign of displeasure at the coach’s decision.
Then later, another Chipolopolo starlet Fwayo Tembo snubbed a national team call-up in unexplained circumstances and this has led him to be left out of subsequent senior team engagements.
The latest earring player is Lusaka Dynamos captain Clatus Chama, who did a ‘Kalaba’ after being substituted.
Chama walked straight to the dressing room after being withdrawn during the 2018 Kenya Africa Nations Championship first round return leg against Swaziland, which Zambia won 3-0 in Lusaka.
On Wednesday, Nyirenda held a press briefing after which he took a swipe at the named players and laid bare his disciplinary code that he insisted should be adhered to as long as he remains at the helm of the national team.
“We are going to discipline Rainford Kalaba. We are running an institution and discipline is non-negotiable. Destitution in Zambian football is because of the way we were handled by some coaches.
“We were not given good direction by some coaches. I am not going to have a soft hand on matters that will ruin them down, that will break their future, then I am a bad parent,” Nyirenda said.
I am not a fortune-teller, perhaps I will never be one, but the likely sanctions that will follow these players is omission from more Chipolopolo engagements as it has been in the past.
Nyirenda’s stance, however, has been received with mixed feelings among football enthusiasts in the country.
Those that have supported his stance say this will set a good precedence and deter would-be offenders, thereby sending a clear signal that no player, no matter how talented, is bigger than the country.
However, others feel Nyirenda as a father would have reprimanded the players in private as opposed to caning them in the media and exposing them to public attack.
Regardless, the coach’s actions are a way of stamping his authority in the team – an important catalyst in the quest to succeed in football management. As to whether it will yield the desired results, only time will tell.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail sports reporter.

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