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Respect your coaches please


I’m a little sick in the pit of my stomach over how Kenyan Premier Clubs are treating their coaches.

We know that all over the world, the coach or manager is always first to be dismissed when a team’s form begins to go down. It’s become such a cheap escape for KPL club owners in recent years and it needs to stop.

We’re nine games into the 2014 season and already five coaches have been show the door, with several others under threat. Worse still, some of these coaches have taken their clubs through very good times but a dip in form left them thrown to the curb without a second thought.

The first coach to be shown the door was Western Stima’s Francis Baraza. Now the management at Stima said there were issues beyond performance that warranted the dismissal but it came after the team lost 3-1 to Tusker FC.

Tusker won the league both in 2011 and 2012, so losing to the league giants isn’t a big shame. The club never fully disclosed the reason behind the sacking but Baraza said it was unfortunate because he was in the process of building a very strong team.

Baraza is no stranger to fans of the local game as he has, in the past, had decent stints at Sony Sugar and as Harambee Stars’ assistant coach.

The next coach on the chopping board was Oliver Page. Page had been on the job as Nakuru All Stars head coach for two months when the freshly promoted team kicked him out. They had played just three games and lost them all but I still think the move was premature.

They had lost their opening games against Sony Sugar, Thika United and Sofapaka, all pretty strong and seasoned league sides. The management in Nakuru said, “The coach and the players never managed to find common ground, which reflected the performance in the first three games in the Premier League.”

Mmmh….

When Ulinzi Stars replaced former coach Benjamin Nyangweso with former Mathare United boss Salim Ali, everyone except the management at Ulinzi saw this as a match “not made in heaven”. Here was a very humble and quiet coach, taking charge of a military side who were used to loud drills and aggressive coaching. Nyanweso too wasn’t that aggressive but he was a soldier so there was an understanding in the team.

Ali didn’t do too well as Ulinzi boss but it wasn’t altogether a disaster. He managed to finish last season in position eight but for the former champions, that was below average.

Coaching in the military comes with its own challenges, given that coaches must primarily only sign soldiers to the side, limiting the talent they can buy. Whatever the reason though, I saw this one coming a long time ago. Still, it was very early in the season to dismiss him, although the official word was that Ali resigned. Yeah right!

Last week’s dismissal of AFC Leopards’ James Nandwa also didn’t come as a shock to many but it still left a sour taste in my mouth. The only reason it wasn’t a shock is the fact that AFC have gone through no less than nine coaches since they were promoted back to the league in 2009.

Gilbert Selebwa, the late Chris Makokha, Eliud Omukaya, Nick Yakama, Robert Bollen, Robert Matano, Jan Koops, Luc Eymael and James Nandwa have all been in charge at the Den over the last five years and yet the management continues to blame the coach for everything.

Most of these coaches have been very successful at Ingwe, from Jan Koops, who went 23 games unbeaten, to Nandwa, who picked the side up to win the FKF Cup last year and push for a second position in the league. Matano has won the league with both Sofapaka and Tusker, while Selebwa got the team promoted from the Nationwide back into the league in 2009.

For some reason, the management has been so impatient and right now I pity any coach willing to take up the mantle at Leopards.

Just this week, KCB, who finished fourth, their highest position ever, last season, got rid of the coach who did it. Juma Abdallah was shown the door because KCB hasn’t won a single game in their nine fixtures this season and sit bottom of the standings.

Yes, that is a dismal performance but three players who were key to KCB’s great performance last year - Brian Osumba, Clifford Alwanga and KPL player of the year 2013 Jacob Keli – were sold by the club’s management and never replaced.

The onus still fell on the coach to make a miracle happen.

The Kenyan Premier League secretariat spoke up last week condemning clubs who randomly sack coaches and I support the KPL wholeheartedly.

I think it’s time the clubs gave their coaches a little more respect. Clubs need to get to the bottom of the problems and fix them. AFC can’t honestly feel that nine coaches were wrong and the management were right. KCB shouldn’t be quick to blame the workman when he has no tools.

Respect your coaches, that’s all I’m asking for.


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