|Football's pressure weekend|
|Friday, 04 May 2012 21:04|
Sir Alex Ferguson could take it no more and, like a raging Red Devil, he charged at Roberto Mancini in a touchline altercation on Monday night that made headlines around the world.
Pep Guardiola searched for answers, after his team’s dominant display failed to break the brave Chelsea hearts, and when he couldn’t find any, he threw in the towel and took an indefinite break.
Sean Conner watched in horror, as his team dominated against plucky Gunners at Lafarge, but two goals in as many minutes, blew the life out of the misfiring Green Machine, leaving the Northern Irishman at the mercy of fans losing their patience.
Rahman Gumbo was insulted more, in one match at Mandava on Tuesday, than all the abuse he has suffered in a coaching career spanning more than a dozen years, which has reaped league titles in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana.
Callisto Pasuwa blamed the referee, his players and just about everyone else, after the humiliation in Tunisia, but that did not spare him the fury of fans shocked by the comical collapse of their beloved Glamour Boys on the big stage.
It didn’t matter which city you were living in this week — Barcelona, Manchester, Harare, Zvishavane or Tunis, the storyline was distinctly similar and it was a tale of coaches who were feeling the heat.
Manchester is on top of the English Premiership but it’s not the United who usually occupy this special seat, at this business end of the season, but a bullish and bubbly City eager to turn back the hands of time and stand on the winners’ podium for the first time in 44 years.
Fergie was left to count the costs of a fatal flirtation with an ultra-negative defensive formation, so ineffective it would have been punished by Karoi United, and showed all his advanced years as he turned the Red Devils from a fighting force into sitting ducks.
The Special One has just ended Barcelona’s dominance of La Liga, becoming the first coach to win league titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, and writing the final chapter in Guardiola’s low-key farewell to the Catalan giants he built into a Dream Team.
Conner survived to lead another week, as the CAPS United management clutched to their belief that their rocky start would bring a fairy-tale ending, and today the Northern Irishman will plunge back into the trenches at Rufaro against a team the Green Machine has always struggled to beat.
Gumbo was given a vote of confidence by his bosses but the tests will not go away and, today, the stubborn Mighty Bulls come marching into Mandava with a point to prove, after a heartbreaking loss in the Independence Cup final, in which they conceded a last-minute equaliser and collapsed in the shootout lottery.
Pasuwa conceded that his friends’ club had shrunk in size, following the massacre in Tunis, but he remains in charge at DeMbare and, after a morale-boosting win in Mutare, he returns home tomorrow to face the Rufaro mob still living in denial as they struggle to accept that this drubbing was real or just a bad dream.
It’s not easy to coach clubs with fans who bank on you to find the formula, all the time, to bring the results they want and I have always felt that Fergie’s longevity at United is a one-off, something that will not happen again, not at this club, not in our lifetime.
The pressure is unbearable and Guardiola came to Barcelona will all his hair intact but he leaves with patches of baldness that have developed faster, in the past four years, than he could have ever imagined when he took the big job.
Conner came to Lafarge wearing a cap synonymous with the dark characters of the Mafia movie, The Godfather, but there was little to disguise the pain evident on his facial features after a match that left him shell-shocked and wondering how they had thrown it all away.
Rahman chose the sanctuary of the dressing rooms, amid all the madness that exploded at Mandava when Bosso staged that spectacular smash-and-grab raid, but the explosions kept erupting, as the home supporters rebelled against their coach, with some calling for his head.
Pasuwa appears to have aged five more years, since he took the DeMbare job last year, and in the past week alone, since his team collapsed in Tunis, he has looked isolated and lonely, a haunted man battling demons in his mind and wondering how it could all go this wrong.
In the age of social media, where judgment from the fans is instant, the coaches are under increasing pressure not only from the mainstream media but also the social bloggers who now have been provided with a forum to pour out their venom to a wider audience.
Shortly before the game ended at Mandava on Tuesday, the administrator of the FC Platinum Facebook page posted that the home fans were calling for Gumbo’s head and, in an instant, there were a flurry of comments on the subject, some too dirty to be printed in a family newspaper like this one.
Now, that’s the way opinion is now being shaped in the social media age and you get instant updates from those inside the stadium, saying they can see people holding placards and they can sense trouble and you have some uploading images of those placards.
It’s now a crazy world out there.
The Letter Simplicio Bhebhe, A DeMbare Fan, Wrote To Pasuwa
Painful as it was, and thanks to the wonders of the internet, I watched a recording of the whole match we lost to Esperance.
Pasuwa has tried to blame the ref for the Tunisia clobbering; after watching the match I find that defence to be as weak as it is embarrassing.
The dry rotten straw that Mr Callisto is clutching at will surely not save him from the tide.
The truth of the matter is that we were well and truly beaten by a technically superior side.
The way Esperance used the full length of the pitch, dribbled past our players unhindered and stretched our team, which relies heavily on hard work rather than tactics, would have been a wonderful and brilliant sight had it not been my beloved DeMbare, which was at the end of it.
If ever there was a lesson in how to play football, then this was it.
Unfortunately, the transparent excuses by Pasuwa make me fear that he may not have gotten anything from so emphatic a lesson.
Of course, the referee made some mistakes here and there but even a Zimbabwean referee would probably have made the same mistakes - the mistakes cannot be categorised as having been induced or in bad faith.
In all fairness, it would be bang insincere to blame the ref for our drubbing.
Last year we lost to MC Alger, and I also watched that match on the internet. Then I was left bitter because I strongly felt we were clearly cheated.
I can’t, in good conscience, say the same about the ref who handled the Saturday match.
If you have a team that does not make a single shot at goal for 94 minutes, you cannot claim that you were cheated.
If you have a team that cannot make five consecutive passes in 94 minutes, you cannot say that you deserved a good result.
If your midfield is non-existent for 94 minutes against a team which passes the ball brilliantly, you cannot expect to win a football match.
If you spend a total of almost 75 minutes camped in your own half, then you have no right to claim that the ref was not fair.
If you believe pumping the ball forward into an empty space is the way to win against the best team on the continent, then you need your head examined.
If you make over 20 stray passes in a football match, you are just not fit to play at the highest level.
Having watched the game, I believe we would still have lost to Esperance even with a brilliant coach, but I do not believe we would have lost by that margin.
Pasuwa deserves all the blame that he gets, for the above reason and further, for the way in which his team played with no shape, no clear strategy, no conviction, no technique and no guidance.
The boys were just huffing and puffing, running around the pitch like headless chickens. In short, the team played like a bunch of amateurs and high school kids.
Even Esperance must have been shocked by the way it was, in the end, so easy for them to humiliate one of the supposed best teams in Africa.
The way Esperance players never broke any sweat on their way to this humiliation must lie on the doorstep of the coach.
His case is not helped one bit by the way his team behaved on their last match before the forgettable Tunisgate or the shambolic way his team has played this season or the way he has handled the Zambians’ issue or indeed the way in which he set up his starting XI on Saturday.
Why Pasuwa, why?
Why did you decide that it was best to give Mamvura his season’s debut against the best team on the continent when you refused even to give him a single minute against massively inferior Monoz in the league?
Why did you decide to give Bello a debut against the African Champions when you have deemed him fit only to play in the reserves all season?
Why did you decide not to play Kutyauripo when you felt he was fit enough for the bench?
Wouldn’t Diva have come on if Bello had been injured in the first two minutes? If Diva was injured, why did you decide that Magorimbo should not travel when he had not only rested enough but is also our best wingback?
Why have you insisted on playing Mutuma on the wing?
Why did you improvise with Mutuma on the wings when you had a natural winger on the bench (Mukamba)?
Why was Mukamba not good enough to start when we needed to hold the ball, subtract defenders and shoot from long range?
Having conceded three goals by halftime and it having been clear by then that we were never going to win the match, why did you substitute a defender instead of trying to keep the score line respectable, or at least overturnable at Rufaro?
Whatever his answers may be, the truth of the matter is that he must accept responsibility for Saturday’s drubbing.
My Humble Analysis Of The Nightmare
Admittedly, Bhebhe asks valid questions that need answers but I resist the temptation to join the bandwagon that Pasuwa, and him alone, was to blame for the massacre in Tunis.
The buck stops with him, as head coach, and he carries the responsibility of the results on his shoulders — hailed as a winner when he wins and lambasted as a loser when things fall apart.
Pasuwa, clearly, has drifted away from the passing game that Lloyd Mutasa tried at Dynamos which, at its most effective, tore apart a bewildered MC Alger on that unforgettable afternoon at Rufaro.
The Dynamos that battled its way back to erase a huge points deficit in the championship race last year didn’t do it playing with beauty but did it the ugly way, suffocating their opponents and usually punishing them with one or two goals.
It’s a system that served Pasuwa well but it was also helped by the arrival of Cuthbert Malajila whose all-round play, ability to trek back and search for the ball and then burst clear at pace, gave the team its shape and its huge weapon on the counter-attack.
Crucially, they also had a ball player, Archford Gutu, in midfield and his good control was key in such a system.
Both Gutu and Malajila have gone.
And, while Takesure Chinyama has brought goals, as a direct replacement for Gaddafi, he doesn’t have the all-round ability of a Malajila to keep running, in defence and attack, for 90 minutes.
Gutu’s move and the decision by the team not to invest in the experience of old warhorse Desmond Maringwa, who certainly would have made a big difference in Tunisia, created a huge hole that was exploited by the African champions.
That the Zambian midfielder brought in to close the gap remains on the sidelines, for inexplicable reasons, compounds the problem.
And, when you add the absence of Guthrie Zhokinyi, and realise that his aerial strength would probably have helped prevent the first and sixth headed goals and the other two scrambled from the middle of the area with young Partson Jaure feeling the full weight of the occasion, then you can see the problem.
But one thing that has quickly been forgotten by the DeMbare fans, who are calling for Pasuwa’s head after the disaster in Tunis, is the reality that their team, from last year, were shockingly poor travelers - and that was the same story even when Lloyd was still in charge.
This is the same Dynamos team, minus Chinyama, Jaure and Ocean Mushure, which did not win a league match out of Harare last year, until the 29th match of the season, when they beat FC Platinum 1-0 at Mandava.
And, even in that victory, they needed Daniel Veremu to score an own goal.
Yes, Simplicio, 6-0 was unacceptable, especially for a team like Dynamos that has taken 30 years to build its good reputation on the continent, but to blame it all on the coach is taking things a bit too far.
Pasuwa made his mistakes in Tunis, including some big ones, but so did his players and when rebounds are tapped in, without any pressure from defenders, you also have to look at the players and their contribution to that disaster. When you have a midfielder being given space, across half the width of the field, to work his way past six opponents without being challenged, as happened in the second goal, surely, you should also look at the players’ contribution.
Good coaches are scarce right now and I believe DeMbare have to stick with the devil they know and Pasuwa might not be the best, when it comes to tactics, but he is learning every day and I believe, given more time, he can turn into the next Sunday Chidzambwa.
Yes, Mhofu wasn’t subjected to such humiliation during his days at DeMbare but his Glamour Boys were hammered 1-5 in Nigeria by Shooting Stars and, two years later, were in the final of the Champions League.
After their 1-5 mauling in Nigeria, Mhofu and his DeMbare returned home and turned on the show at the National Sports Stadium and, were it not for the heroics of Super Eagles ‘keeper, Abiodun Baruwa, they would have won that game by a double digit score.
In the end, they won 3-1 but the fans saw the fight that Tauya Murewa and his men put into the cause of their team that day and, after the match, the Glamour Boys were given a standing ovation.
Two years later, they were in the Champions League final.
It’s the same spirit they need today in the face of the disaster in Tunis and, come on guys, this is just a crazy football season and Wenger is still there at Arsenal despite the 2-8 defeat at Old Trafford and Sir Alex could be champion again despite the 1-6 defeat at home to City.
To Suggest Gumbo Has Failed
Rahman Gumbo has had a testing week but my good old friend is a veteran of the trenches and has been in this situation before countless times in his lengthy and largely successful coaching career.
The 1-3 defeat at home to Highlanders torched a storm and, for the first time since he became FC Platinum coach, he saw the fans turning against him with placards calling for him to go.
But only the naïve will claim that Gumbo has failed and to even discuss the possibility of firing him would not only be criminal but very, very unprofessional on the part of his employers.
The fans have a right to express their feelings and their voices need to be heard.
But it doesn’t necessarily mean that every time fans rebel against the coach, he must be fired, because then such a team would have an average of 10 coaches per season.
Rahman has been a success story at FC Platinum and it’s easy to forget that he only lost the championship on goal difference, he has already won two trophies and to try and judge him, on the back of five league games, where he has only lost once, and use them to determine his future, will be an act of stupidity.
Admittedly, the targets that FC Platinum have set for themselves are high but it’s also important to realise that they don’t play in a league where they are the only ambitious team.
Others are also trying to become stronger and losing to a Bosso team, which has won three of its four games, is not a disaster that should be used to spell the end of a coach.
Nathan Shoko, and his FC Platinum management, have done the sensible thing to stick with the coach and you can feel that their decision will breathe freshness into their franchise.
It’s too early in the season to starting judging coaches, ladies and gentlemen, and Rahman might have his faults as an individual, and noone is immune to that, but he is a damn good coach and his record speaks for itself.
Of course, one can’t bank on his past forever, and it’s time he shows his critics who he really is and that should start with today’s game against Motor Action at Mandava.
Pressure is everywhere and Sean Conner is feeling it, too, and he got the benefit of doubt from the fans last Sunday because his team played well and were very, very unlucky to lose against Gunners.
You can see, with each passing day, what he is trying to build at CAPS United but that should be backed by results and if he can get his season going by helping the Green Machine beat their bogey side, Monomotapa, at Rufaro today, he could make a big difference.
It’s The Blue Moon Rising?
Manchester City have lived in Manchester United shadows for ages and it’s life’s cruel irony that in the year they last won the league championship, in ’68, the Red Devils went one better and became the first English club to win the European Cup.
After City’s big and deserved win on Monday night, you feel this is their moment but this club’s fans have known too much heartbreak to take things for granted and Newcastle could prove the unlikely kingmakers.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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