Argentine Rodolfo Zapata has his work cut out at AFC Leopards KickOff
ONONO: Letter to AFC Leopards coach, Zapata
By Samuel Onono | Fri 04 May, 2018 18:53
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Rodolfo Zapata,

C/O Dan Mule

Nairobi

Dear Mr. Zapata,

RE: REJUVENATING AFC LEOPARDS

Belated happy birthday. I trust this missive finds you well and welcome to the Den.

You are a top coach and Jose Mourinho once said a big club deserves a big coach.  Am glad Dan Mule has handed you a two – year contract. This is where the Leopards management has gone wrong in the past - issuing a short and loose contract to a gaffer just doesn’t fly. In such cases either party lacks the commitment to execute the full mandate of the contract.

The few like I, who have followed your history understand that you have solid credentials in international football. You led your Nigerian team Sunshine Stars to the Confederation Cup quarters. This even made the Nigerian soccer authorities consider you for African soccer’s biggest job. Of course the legal system in Nigeria wouldn’t have allowed you that job but you made a statement.

Later you impressed at Johannesburg’s Mpulamanga Black Aces. Your next stop was at Gaborone United where you took the team from bottom to near top in one season. This shows the stuff you are made of. You have some fire in the belly.

To succeed at Ingwe you will need to embed the culture of fire at the team. They lack it. From the playing unit to the technical bench. From the fans to the office.

But because your job is heading the technical bench, I will restrict my critique here.

Good players

Coaching is about taking players from where they are to where they want to be. You have some good players, the sad thing is many don’t know what they are capable of. I would suggest you undertake an exercise in finding out the individual ambition of your charges.

Should you find three or four players who have reached self actualization playing in the Kenyan league, then put them on notice. A player with no hunger or ambition to succeed at the topmost levels has no business being at a club of Ingwe’s caliber.

Secondly, hand the club your recruitment strategy. This will ensure you have a pipeline of talent at the den that will be aligned to your strategic intent. My last count shows that over the last five years Ingwe have signed and dropped an average of 15 players each year. The average “Lifespan” of an Ingwe player is one season.  There’s no continuity from one season to the next. While bringing players on board, they have no caution on age, discipline or past medical history. That is how they have lost some pedigree players over the last couple of years

Thirdly you will find several technical players at the den. The challenge is to convert this technical prowess to a winning tactical fit. This shouldn’t be an issue for a coach of your standing. You did it in Nigeria, South Africa and in Botswana. You can do it here.

Finally, you lost to K’Ogalo on arrival. This is a very important game for Ingwe fans; they forgave you for two good reasons. It wasn’t right to ruin your birthday further and also, you had just landed from Botswana.

Another derby

Now am advised there’s another derby in the pipeline shortly. Prepare for it as if your life depends on it. If you don’t clinch three points or draw the next derby, be on notice.  No coach loses three derbies in a row to K’Ogalo.  

In fact, as if in respect to the two clubs’ prospective coaches, a reggae group UB40 once sang a song “If it happens again”. It is a song wise K’Ogalo and AFC Leopards coaches would be strongly advised to learn. It goes like.

If it happens again I'm leaving I'll pack my things and go If it happens again There'll be no looking back I won't say I told you some You did what you were told And you took the strain Been left out in the cold Got yourself to blame But believe me, If it happens again I'm leaving If it stays the same I'm gone When you're stabbed in the back And there's salt in the wound The it's time to move along

It is my strong wish things don’t come to this.

Samuel Onono
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