In April 2017, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the news that Malawi had appointed a foreign coach to drill the Flames. I am talking of Ronny van Geneugden (I will use the full name throughout).
I remember, that time, searching for information that would shed more light on the coach, who has surely made Malawi his second home. Who would not, especially when a country sells the moniker The Warm Heart of Africa?
That is how I came to learn about the affable coach. I even learned that the Dutch pronunciation for Ronny van Geneugden is rɔni vɑŋ ɣəˈnøːɣdə(n). Now, good people, do not look at me like that! Ha! Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!H a!Ha!Ha!
The day I stumbled upon the words rɔni vɑŋ ɣəˈnøːɣdə(n) is the day I got to learn that our new-found friend was born on August 17 1968.
In fact, the day I came across the words rɔni vɑŋ ɣəˈnøːɣdə(n) is the day I learned that he is a former Belgian football player.
I am saying, the day I knew the words rɔni vɑŋ ɣəˈnøːɣdə(n) is the point in time I learned that he registered most of his achievements at Oud-Heverlee Leuven, who he led to the Belgian Second Division title in 2010-11.
When I made friends with the words rɔni vɑŋ ɣəˈnøːɣdə(n), I learned that the Malawi National Football Team coach helped Oud-Heverlee Leuven earn promotion to the first division in the 2011-12 season, culminating in him being awarded a contract extension to 2015.
I think rɔni vɑŋ ɣəˈnøːɣdə(n) is a good word because, after I came across it, I learned a lot of things about the coach I like; Ronny van Geneugden.
After all, who cannot like a coach who played for Thor Waterschei, RKC Waalwijk, Antwerp, SK Lommel, Germinal Ekeren, Lokeren and Verbroedering Geel?
Now, I have come across Ronny van Geneugden a dozen times or so. I have come across him at Kamuzu Stadium, Shoprite Complex at Chichiri Round-about and countless times at Mpira House, Football Association of Malawi (Fam)’s headquarters— all these places are in Blantyre.
I stay close to Mpira House, just that I stay in one of the villages around there! I am a villager!
Now, as neba to Mpira House, I often take a walk around the place. Sometimes, when the urge is on me, I go inside and watch the junior Flames sides train.
Once, I remember, I gave Ronny van Geneugden a thumbs-up; he acknowledged it and gave me a thumbs-up! Well, how many people can get a thumbs-up from Ronny van Geneugden?
Now, my impression of the coach is that he has done a commendable job. He has made the Flames [I mean the senior players] more confident than before.
I remember, in those days, the Flames’ senior players could not hold on to the ball. They were preoccupied with the fear of getting dispossessed and, as a result, could throw the ball upfront in haste, hoping that it would get to their man. But, often, it landed at the feet of the detested enemy, a player of the team against which the Flames were playing.
So, while we created the illusion of moving forward with the ball, we were moving forward aimlessly.
What, then, has Ronny van Geneugden done? He has instilled confidence in the ‘boys’.
As Fam President, Walter Nyamilandu=Manda, said the other day, the Flames are really playing like Barcelona. They can hold on to the ball, thereby holding up play. They can pass the ball around, not aimlessly, but while waiting for the other team to lose it shape, so that they can pounce on the hapless team via a counter-attack.
In fact, Ronny van Geneugden has made it possible for the ‘boys’ to play in a pivot system, something unheard of in the past.
If the Flames have problems, that has nothing to do with the coach. The problem is with Malawi football. We have not invested in our national teams but want to reap the results.
Even Nyamilandu-Manda has done his best. He has made Malawi football likeable again. He is the best thing to have happened to Malawi football. He is more famous than all Fam presidents combined. He has put Malawi on the map by becoming a Fifa Council member. He is everything good dreams are made of.
And Nyamilandu-Manda and Ronny van Geneugden make a good pair. They can steer the ship that is Malawi football forward.
By the way, one thing I did not get right about Ronny van Geneugden is how to pronounce his name in Chichewa. It is only recently that I was told, by Williams ‘Danger Left Winger’ Gondwa of course, that the surname is Hunedeni!
What relief! Next time I come across him, I will shout Hunedeni!!!
So, did I hear some confused people planning to march so that they can force the coach out! Do not do it, I want to enjoy pronouncing Hunedeni!!! Why are you coming in when, finally, I can confidently say Hunedeni? I am enjoying it.
Sindiimva [I am having none of it]. Hunedeni is here to stay!
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