He arrived with fanfare of a messiah and a reputation for delivering success from trash. But like many Malawi national team coaches before him, Ronny van Geneugden is marking his first anniversary with a bitter taste of failure in his mouth.
Geneugden (RVG) took over last April, after signing a three-year deal. He has claimed two wins, three losses and six draws.
In his self assessment after a year in office, the Belgian, in an interview with Nation on Sunday claimed that the Flames have improved, and they are playing according to his philosophy of keeping possession for better parts of the match.
The Belgian’s performance assessment by fellow coaches and football experts, however, has both scorn and support. Some are calling for his dismissal while others team and needs time.say he is slowly transforming the
“What we are missing is the finishing product—goals. Otherwise, in the past year I have imposed my style. The philosophy is to keep the ball and it is working,” Geneugden said on Wednesday.
He said some of his contractual targets are to invent an identity and philosophy for Malawi football, help the development of junior teams and impart skills to local coaches.
He said he has also done well in other target areas citing Malawi Under-20 performance at the 2017 Cosafa Youth Championship in Zambia where they narrowly missed the semi-final berth despite playing well in the opening games.
RVG also used the Under-17 national team as an example of football development under his watch. The Junior Flames finished in the semi-finals of the Cosafa Under-17 championship.
“All the junior teams somehow played using the philosophy which I am imposing. So, I believe that by the time I finish my tenure they will have wholly embraced this philosophy,” he said.
Football analyst Billy Tewesa, who once served as Nyasa Big Bullets technical director, was brutal in his assessment, arguing that there has been no tangible progress in as far as the national team is concerned.
“If results are bad, there can never be justification that the team has improved. How can you measure improvement when the team is losing? I think this coach has a good relationship with FAM and that is why he is still holding the position. In brief, he’s a lucky coach. If it was any other coach. he would have been sacked by now,” he said.
But coach Benjamin Kumwenda rallied behind RVG, saying his year-long reign was for him to lay the foundation.
“A coach normally needs a year to come up with a team of his own players and also a technical panel of his choice. RVG, I think, has had time to address those two areas in the first year,” he said.
Kumwenda, who is also a coaches’ Fifa certified instructor, said Malawi can start holding the coach accountable through games which the Flames are going to play this year.
Malawi face Uganda in a friendly encounter before playing Cameroon and Morocco in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
“The coach will have no excuses if the team performs poorly because he has been given enough time to build the team and find local coaches he thinks he can work with effectively,” he said.
Another experienced coach Patrick Kulemeka blamed RVG for what he described as ‘sowing seeds of disunity’ in Malawi football by sidelining qualified coaches.
“Look at how he is selecting the coaches to work in his technical panel and those of junior teams. Many highly qualified coaches are being sidelined while those who are least qualified are being considered. This is unfair. But, sadly, no one is going to stop him. I think he is so powerful,” he said.
According to the assessors, RVG’s positives include the style of play, where one notes a more holding and passing game.
“We also note players seem to be given a role when they get into field of play. Further, he seems to want to develop a working relationship with coaches, especially former players as per recent selection of backroom staff,” one of them said.
Another football analyst Chiku Kalilombe said the Flames have improved and backed RVG to remain in charge.
“Based on the last two games I watched, the team is playing with more confidence. It is able to control the pace of the game, which is key in home games. Again, they are able to build up play from the back and attack systematically. What remains is to turn that into goals,” said Kalilombe, former Super League of Malawi vice-president.