IT is quite unfortunate that the remarks were attributed to an unnamed source said to be “close” to former Zimbabwe defender Kaitano Tembo (pictured), who has been reported in South African media as having dismissed the possibility of him coaching at club level in his homeland following his relative success down south.
It is said Tembo is convinced a return home, to coach in the league and not the national team, would be a downgrade.
I would have liked to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, but that is besides the point and Tembo, were it his sentiments, would not be the first one and the last to reveal contempt for the standards of the game in our country.
Some of us have been on record with our not-so-flattering opinion of the quality of the football in our league. Others see otherwise, and this has ignited heated argument within Zimbabwe’s football fraternity.
And we ought all not take it personally.
For the sake of robust debate, I consider different opinion as only good for the game if it can foster positive change.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and, similarly, their choices.
Just like Tembo, who made his name at Zimbabwean club giants Dynamos before winding down his playing career with South African clubs Sevens Stars and SuperSport United.
He then had a long coaching career with SuperSport, rising from assistant coach to head coach with some moderate success, but no league title in those years until being fired by Matsatsantsa early April.
So, for now, Tembo does not see himself as Zimbabwean league material, so to speak.
Benjani Mwaruwari however does not see it that way.
With a more attracting record as a player – featuring for such teams like UK Premiership sides Manchester City and Portsmouth as well as then French Ligue 1 outfit Auxerre – the former Zimbabwe captain has taken his first step as a senior team coach with a gig back home in Zimbabwe at top-flight club Ngezi Platinum Stars FC.
Benjani, before joining Ngezi, had been working in the academy of his former club Portsmouth as an assistant coach whilst earning his coaching badges.
Though it is only in the infancy of his coaching career, I do not think that Benjani considers coaching in Zimbabwe as a step backwards, despite his rewarding playing days in Europe.
Everyone starts somewhere, some of the greatest coaches in world football had the most modest and bumpiest beginnings imaginable.
Even after scaling the heights, some do track back to the roots, others to less-fashionable jobs, like Clemens Westerhof.
Westerhof, after guiding Nigeria to 1994 Africa Cup of Nations glory and then taking the Super Eagles to the World Cup that year, came down to coach Zimbabwe’s national team some years later, and even had a brief spell with local club Dynamos.
Both of the Dutchman’s jobs in this country were without success, in spite of his profile and previous success with a greater footballing nation. But it should not surprise anyone.
That is the nature of this game, most things just do not last forever.
I do not imagine Kaitano Tembo being jobless for a very long time on the South African football scene. I believe he has done sufficiently well to attract other suitors in that country.
But if no offers come his way, I only hope that one day he thinks again about it, perhaps even at a convenient time, and comes back home to his adoring countrymen to help by sharing what he learnt over the years in Mzansi.