Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
WHILE most elite coaches choose to take up jobs in the First Division, experienced footballers viewed as spent forces either prefer to prove their critics wrong or retire in the lower tier league.
High-profile gaffers like former national team coaches Rahman Gumbo, Lloyd Mutasa and Bongani Mafu will set the First Division alight when they lead their teams’ campaign for a Premiership ticket.
Gumbo and Mutasa are in charge of Central Soccer League side TelOne FC, while Mafu was recently appointed head coach of Southern Region Division One League side Hwange.
Former Warriors winger Joel Luphahla, who led TelOne to the Premiership after winning the Central Soccer League title in 2018, left the WiFi boys and joined Northern Region Division 2A side Golden Eagles.
Try Ncube, who led Bulawayo City to a podium finish in the Southern Region Division One League and a Premiership ticket, decided to stay in the lower league and “build” his name instead of going to the topflight with the local authority club.
Ncube is now in charge of Victoria Falls club Mosi Rovers.
Turk Mine-based Casmyn FC hired Dazzy Kapenya last month, with Arenel FC taking on board highly-rated First Division gaffer Kudzi Mhandire last week.
Talen Vision, who lost the championship to Bulawayo City, are under the guidance of former national team assistant coach Mkhuphali Masuku, while Sizabantu Khoza is tipped to join Plumtree side Mainline.
“If you look at how the First Division clubs have signed experienced coaches, you can see that this year promises to be a good footballing season and also shows seriousness on the part of teams. It’s going to be interesting to see how these ‘big’ coaches are going to fare. In as much as some of the teams in the First Division pay better, these experienced coaches have taken lower division jobs not only as a way of earning a living, but to keep themselves visible in football structures,” said Zimbabwe Soccer Coaches Association (Zicsa) secretary Oscar Mazhambe.
“If they sit at home, people might forget them and their chances of being hired become next to none because of being inactive. The other thing you also have to consider is that some of the coaches win the championship, but can’t be allowed to coach in the Premiership because they don’t have the required qualifications.
“But what is good about having experienced coaches in the lower league is that you are guaranteed of good, tactical games; something that spectators love to watch,” he said.
On the players’ end, old horses such as TelOne-bound Simon Munawa, who was discarded by Chicken Inn, ex-national team defender Zephaniah Ngodzo, who has dumped Bulawayo City for Talen Vision and veteran midfielder Canaan Nkomo, who also opted for Talen Vision, seem to be among a host of experienced players taking solace in the First Division.
Gritty midfielder Thabani Goredema, Takunda Muzuwa, who had established himself as a core figure at Bulawayo Chiefs, ex-Zimbabwe internationals Chris Samakweri and Darryl Nyandoro, who once played for continental giants TP Mazembe and are all approaching mid-30s, have surfaced at ambitious Mosi Rovers.
“Some coaches find that seasoned players offer them the backbone they need in challenging for the championship. Also, there’s a saying that there’s no substitute for experience and that’s exactly what the veterans offer. You might say they are coming to a retirement home in the First Division, but as a coach I find them valuable in terms of guiding youngsters,” said Mazhambe. – @ZililoR.