Basking in the delight of chalking only his second win against Togo’s Hawks, Flames coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) was a beacon of happiness when we met in a lounge for a post-match interview two months ago at Anezi Hotel and Apartments in Agadir, Morocco.
He appeared cheery and exuded a relaxed and affable charm. He even took me by surprise when he greeted me in vernacular Chichewa, but with a typical mzungu accent, saying: “Bwanji Garry, za boo?”… and seeing the astonishment on my face, he went on: “You are surprised? Ndimalangula Chechiwa [Ndimalankhula Chichewa]?” And we burst into laughter.
Then I took the opportunity to tell him of the difficulties that I, and several others had in pronouncing his name, citing my tyre-fitter friend Gama who calls him van Garden, Ronny chuckled and said: “Don’t worry Garry, just call me Mzungu or Banda.” Here was a man floating on air.
Amid some slow jazz music playing in the background, I went on to congratulate him on the win and almost immediately, a Moroccan lady donning a bikini passed by and Ronny winced at me. Then we switched to some serious stuff and suddenly, in those eyes where warmth and humour sparkled, there was a sudden glint of intensity.
He reiterated on his ambitious drive to rebuild the Flames and see to it that his playing philosophy is implemented. RVG said by the time they play their last friendly match which was last Saturday against Lesotho, he would come up with a definite team.
Well, I am sure RVG realises that he faces a race against time in coming up with a definite squad ahead of the next 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Morocco which will be a tall order if the Atlas Lions’ current rich vein of form is anything to go by. They have just qualified for the 2018 World Cup by the way and when we were struggling against Lesotho, they were roasting Ivory Coast. Uloliwe, uloliwe wayidudula, nen’gesiza hah! (Oh yes, the train is pushing). Glory be to God. n