When Zimbabwean born coach Rahman Gumbo took over the reins at Sua Flamingoes, there was euphoria thick in the air that he will turn around the fortunes of the club and make it a more competitive side.
Gumbo boasts a decorated coaching career, having led three different clubs — Mochudi Center Chiefs, Township Rollers and Gaborone United — to league titles and cup honours here in Botswana. Even more impressive during his time with The Blues is that he led them to the Premier League title and a domestic cup in the same year of 2010.
Expectedly, social media was abuzz as football enthusiasts tried to predict the happier times that await Flamingoes with the former Highlanders FC in charge. However, one person castigated Botswana clubs for their continued trust in foreign coaches and not the local counterparts.
The top four sides in the country — Township Rollers, Gaborone United, Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy — (used to) have a foreigners at the helm. This despite, critics argue, the presence of talented local coaches, such as Chico Nare (Morupule Wanderers), Teenage Mpote (Orapa United) and Michael Mogaladi (who has just been appointed at Masitaoka).
The local vs foreign coaches debate is one that has been replicated in the local football fraternity on several occasions. Notably, Gaborone United and Township Rollers, the country’s biggest clubs, have been accused of putting their trust in foreign coaches rather than granting opportunities to local ones.
Critics argue that these foreign coaches are just tourists out to bide their time in the Botswana sunshine before bolting away at the first sight of a better opportunity elsewhere. But GU has quickly realised the issue and are now led by local coaches in Innocent Morapedi and Pontsho Moloi. It is Rollers who are still holding tight to foreigners.
The coach’s seat at Popa and even at Galaxy has become a revolving chair, with a new occupant at the start of every season. Moreover, most of these coaches do not enjoy the same success in their new workstations.
Those who frown upon foreign coaches advance that local tactician can do better if only they are provided with the right resources, including capacity building. And this season alone, it appears that much trust is given to local bred coaches, as 12 clubs in the elite league have employed them.
Furthermore, foreign coaches are discouraged as they are likely to give more playing time to foreign players in their teams as opposed to local ones. However, just like in South Africa, football in Botswana is all about results and foreign coaches seem to churn them out better than their local counterparts. Take Rollers, for example. The club’s success since 2010 has largely been down to foreign coaches, taking their league tally to more than 10 titles.
Under Romain Floz, they have been off to an illustrious start of the second round of the season, winning their first five matches and drawing one.
In Botswana, it is noteworthy that no Motswana coach has ever won the Premier League since Sthandwa Mogwadi won the title with Police in 2007. Around those years, the local coaches were dominant and very much in control. In 2005, the late Banks Panene won the league with Township Rollers in the era of Stan Tshosane and departed Major David Bright.
Looking at this coaches’ debate, it is not lost that indeed football has been impacted by globalisation and the free-market economic policy. It is noteworthy that even a Motswana once led South African sides to considerable success.
Perhaps the proliferation of foreign coaches will challenge local tacticians to up their game and go toe-to-toe with each other. In today’s competition, only four foreigners are up for the challenge and Batswana are by far impressive.
Athletics is one of the sporting activities that for many years has been consistently performing extremely well in international competitions. One of the reasons is the availability of qualified and experienced coaches, who have been working tirelessly on the ground to ensure that they scout talent and develop more athletes.
For the first time after eons, football clubs plying their trade in the elite league are walking in the shadow of the undefined with nothing concrete agreed and on sight before the commencement of the football season.