So, it has finally happened. Kinnah Phiri is no longer the coach of the Malawi national team. Finally, not because I was necessarily looking forward to it, but one just saw it coming given the statements that were coming from within the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and, of course, the vibes from public opinion which clearly suggested time was up for the legendary striker and his team.
Not long ago, I argued here that Kinnah was very lucky because, given the Flames’ results in the last 30 months, not many would have lasted as long as he eventually did. This country has not always been this patient with its national team coaches. It is probably even fair to suggest that qualification for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola earned him the lenience he enjoyed.
In making the decision it has, FAM has placated many souls because the pressure to act was ever growing, but the whole move raises more questions than it answers. For starters, it does not make sense to me to fire a coach when the ink on his new contract has hardly dried. The calls for change were there and just as loud at the time of re-engaging Kinnah and they were flatly ignored.
The question that emerges out of that is what has changed this time? Was the decision to hand the technical panel fresh contracts even against public opposition not a vote of confidence? Do you commit to a new contract on trial basis as this situation clearly suggests? Or is the association showing that it is completely out of its breath and does not know what it is really doing?
I am not privy to the details of the contracts which Kinnah and the rest of the technical panel signed, but I would not be surprised if government, the ultimate employer, were to part with millions in dispensing with them. It does not sound prudent to spend so much money when the people could have been released for close to nothing at the end of their previous contracts.
And now that the decision has been made anyway, the next question would be what next? I hear the association has decided that the next Flames coach should be foreign. Since FAM does not pay the coaches from its finances, is there commitment from government to meet the costs of engaging an expatriate coach? And will that coach get better support from the system than Kinnah got?
The last point is very important to me because the coach is only part of the equation and even the best coach needs the right support system in order to be effective. That does not only include providing adequate financial backup but also sound leadership at the association and government. You might add the quality of the players at that coach’s disposal to the equation as well.
Let me end by congratulating Manchester United on their victory last week over my Liverpool at Old Trafford. Given their total dominance in the first half one could say it was a deserved win. For the Reds, there was a lot in the second half to show that the slow but steady progress is still on course. Once a few tactical changes were made at half time, the team showed that it is capable of going places.
And we have another set on tasty fixtures tomorrow in London as United visit Andre Villas-Boaz’s Tottenham Hotspur while Rafa Benitez’s Chelsea host the Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. What a menu!