AT a time when it looked like Malawi football was finally getting contented with local expertise in drilling the Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, for international competitions, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) had other ideas.
The country’s soccergoverning body insisted that time had come to try foreign expertise to turn around the fortunes of the misfiring national soccer team. Fam’s resolve to hire an expatriate for the Flames’ coaching job was in sharp contrast with some stakeholders in the game, who argued that local coaches are just as good.
The local trainers themselves put their hands up and called on Fam to trust them with the job, saying they were the ones who took the Flames to their two Africa Cup of Nations finals qualifications in 1984 and 2010.
But Fam and other pundits counter-argued and said the qualification was only made possible after expatriates had laid the ground before the locals took over. Government seemed to side with those against employing an expatriate coach when it told Fam that there was no money to pay a foreign mentor for the Flames.
For a moment, the Walter Nyamilandu-led association looked like it had bowed down to government’s stance and went as far as announcing the Flames withdrawal from both the Africa Cup of Nations and the African Nations Championship.
About two weeks later, Fam made a u-turn and announced that the Flames were not pulling out and will have an expatriate trainer. Several names like Callisto Pasuwa, Honour Janza and Bruce Grobbelaar were thrown into the fray as Fam kept a tight lid on the final shortlist.
The name still remained under wraps until the trainer landed at Blantyre’s Chileka Airport and was whisked away by Fam officials, asking the inquisitive media to wait until the new man addressed them 48 hours later. And indeed address the media he did. This was after signing a two-year contract with Fam before being officially unveiled by Nyamilandu himself.
The media was told that Fifa and local bank, FDH, will be responsible for his perks. The Belgian was then given the chance to open outline his dreams to the Malawian press for the first time: and he spoke with calculated words.
“I want to create a style of football, not only for the first team but also for youth teams. But I cannot do this alone. Together, we need to create chemistry between the players on the pitch and the fans watching,” van Geneugden said. What came out of his chest may give a hint that he did his homework well ahead of his coming to Malawi.
He knew exactly which chords to pluck in order to pacify those who strongly opposed the recruitment of an expatriate coach. But is the UEFA pro-coaching licence holder the long-awaited saviour of the Flames who have broken the hearts of Malawians with their poor performances?
Is he the wise man from the West? Only time will tell. Playing career His first club as a player was Waterschei Thor before he moved to RKC Waalwijk where he played for just a season. His next destination was Royal Antwerp where he played from July 1989 to July 1992.
Van Geneugden then went on to spend five seasons at Lommel SK. His stay at the club was shortlived as he moved to Germinal Ekeren after only six months. He found fertile ground at the club and spent three seasons there. KSC Lokeren were the next club to sign him in July 2000 before a two-year career at KFC V. Geel ended his playing time.
Coaching career Born on August 17 1968, van Geneugden is a former Belgian football player who has had most of his successes with OudHeverlee Leuven, leading them to the Belgian Second Division title in 2010-11.
He helped the team to gain promotion to the First Division a year later and was consequently rewarded with a contract extension to 2015. Despite two successful seasons in the First Division, where OudHeverlee Leuven finished midtable, his contract was terminated on January 21, 2014 as his team sat second bottom of the division after a poor first half of the 201314 season.
His first club as a coach was Excelsior Veldwezelt from 2001 to 2003. He later picked up a job with KRC Genk Under 19 team until 2008.
During his five-year stay at Genk Under 19, van Geneugden was given the role of interim coach for the main team for three months. The club extended his stay with a promotion to the main team which he coached from February, 2008 to March, 2009. In July, 2010, van Geneugden was appointed OH Leuven coach until January, 2014.
Four months later, he got a job with Waasl-Beveren but trained the team for only seven months until December 30, 2014. He was out of coaching for almost a year. The Belgian only managed to find his next job on November 10, 2015 when En. Paralimni employed him. His stay at the club was also short-lived as by May 31 of the following year, he found himself jobless again.
At the time of picking up the Flames coaching job, van Geneugden was not attached to any club. Van Geneugden is surely not the first European coach Fam has ever hired. Others were there before him. While some are remembered for good reasons, the others are remembered for the wrong ones.
After overseeing the Flames’ matches against Kenya and Madagascar, the coach knows exactly how he needs to tread in order to get results. If he does succeed, he will be a darling to Malawians and people will be asking for his continued stay like they did with Kim Splidsboel.
But if he does not, he will follow the likes of Burkhard Ziese in being a better forgotten story.
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