When you are getting married, sometimes you do not have to think too much about it. You just get in there and learn from the experience.
And the ‘marriage’ Fam ‘officiated’ at the Chiwembe Technical and Development Centre on Sunday seemed more about convenience than a well-thought arrangement.
A month ago, never in the wildest dreams would one have guessed the combination of Ernest Mtawali and Nsanzurwimo Ramadhan as Flames head coach and assistant coach respectively.
“Sometimes life moves you around,” the Burundian told the press after being unveiled.
Fam president Walter Nyamilandu insists that since the coaches are hired like civil servants, the only way to recruit them is through interviews with the second most successful candidate during such interviews automatically assuming the role of second in command.
Of course, on the evidence of what was witnessed during their unveiling both coaches have the luxury of conversing in basic French and crack some jokes. It is all due to their exposure on the international football stage.
However, there is nothing suggesting that they have been football friends, let alone having much in common. Experience of such combinations informs of the consequences.
Twinning Young Chimodzi with his senior and former national team captain Jack Chamagwana as Flames coach and deputy proved ineffective.
Reports of the two coaches giving own instructions to players surfaced towards the end of their reign two months ago.
Previously, Chimodzi also had issues with his former boss Kinnah Phiri, who towards the end of his Flames’ tenure around 2012, reportedly felt his right hand man was sabotaging his work.
Elsewhere, Chelsea Jose Mourinho will always pick his backroom staff whereever he is hired. You hire the coach and give them a free hand to pick their supporting act. Not the
other way round.
Therefore, how Mtawali and his deputy learn from their working relationship then that of managing the national team would, well before throwing other critical success variables into play, define this combination.
Ramadhan is a well-travelled and experienced tactician who has coached in Burundi, Rwanda, Botswana, South Africa and many times in Malawi. He has won league titles and trophies with Bullets.
And lest it be forgotten that Ramadhan was once in a caretaker coaching panel under which Mtawali once played under in the late 1990s.
“He accepted to play under me when I was an assistant coach [caretaker], why should I not accept to be his assistant? It is not about a position, but serving the nation,” Ramadhan added.
The Burundian is obviously more experienced and has managed football at the top level, whereas Mtawali has coached Alexandria United and Bloemfontein Celtic Youth teams in South Africa before impressing with the Under-20 national team. He nearly steered the Junior Flames to the Africa Youth Championship final last year.
“Mr. Ramadhan will definetly add value to the team,” Mtawali acknowledged.
Mtawali, who holds top qualifications from England FA and Germany, also had stints with the Flames as an assistant to then coach Eddingtone Ng’onamo.
Compared to his playing record, Mtawali’s coaching pedigree pales into comparison as he played at the highest level in France, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, Italy and England.
And of course, it was in South Africa where he became the first ever foreigner to scoop player-of -the year award in 1988 while starring for Mamelodi Sundowns.
Mtawali was a star player. No Flames coach could toy with the idea of substituting the then star Mtawali, let alone starting him from the bench. Once on the field of play, every pass and everything revolved around him.
Now as a coach everything about preparing the Flames will revolve around Mtawali. If only he can transfer the influence he had as a player into the Flames and strike a common cord with Ramadhan, then maybe this could be a dream combination. On paper, this ‘combo’ does not appear like one.
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