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Bitter pill of rejection coaches swallow

The 2014 Kenyan Premier League is barely a month old, yet two coaches have already been fired by their respective clubs as signs of pressure begin showing after only four games into the season.

Francis Baraza and his deputy Hesbon Nyabinge were the first to be shown the door on February 23rd by Western Stima.

They were accused of taking money from players in exchange for a place in the starting line up. At the time, Stima had won one match and lost one.

The incident shook the Kenyan football fraternity – to think that a coach entrusted to shape the careers of players was involved in back hand deals.

Baraza, who has now been appointed Muhoroni Youth coach, shares the dubious record for the shortest local coaching job with Robert Bollen, who was fired by AFC Leopards after only one week during the 2011 season.

Denied claims

Baraza denied the allegations, accusing the club of soiling his name. He said: “I am straight forward; the bribe allegations against me are false. The club should complete investigations quickly so that I can clear my name.”

After Baraza’s acrimonious exit, newcomers in the top league Top Fry Nakuru All Stars also sacked their coach of two months Oliver Page.

Top Fry are bottom of the league after four loses, three of which were during Page’s tenure before he was shown the door. Top Fry lost to Sony Sugar, Thika United and Sofapaka.

Is the pressure too much on the local coaches to deliver within a short time? Do clubs want instant success or has the league become so competitive that a match can determine a coach’s future at the club?

Coaching is regarded as one of the most high-risk jobs the world over. It is said that a coach is as good as his last touchline performance. 

Former Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson once said that there were only two types of managers – those who have been sacked, and those who would be sacked in the future.

Some football followers are of the view that coaches should be given time to settle into the job and implement their ideas. 

Former Tusker coach Sammy Pamzo Omollo believes coaches need time to work on their strategies.

“How do you fire a coach after only three matches? What precedent are we setting? It makes it difficult for coaches to work well,” said Omollo.

He was sacked by Tusker in spite of guiding the team to the league title in 2011 and now coaches Super League side Bidco. Omollo’s a classic example of how clubs are quick to send coaches packing if results don’t go their way. 

“Coaching is a difficult job, one day you are praised for doing well but when you lose the following match, everyone calls for your sacking,” he said. 

Omollo advised coaches in the Premier League to work hard and prove to the management that they fit the part. On the other hand, he wants club managements to give a free hand to coaches to achieve their goals.

Robert Matano, who took over from Omollo and retained the league title with Tusker in 2012, was shown the door last season after a string of poor results. He said the Premier League is ruthless and managers – especially the new ones – don’t have experience in the league.

“The league is not a classroom; no one will give you much time to settle. You have to learn the ropes as you go along, you are as good as your next game,” said Matano who was appointed to the Ingwe technical bench.

Intense pressure

The pressure is more intense in big clubs were fans expect the teams they support to win all their matches and titles on offer.

Kenya’s oldest clubs and Gor Mahia and bitter rivals AFC Leopards’ coaches have clear terms. Either to produce results or to ship out.

In the last two years, the turnover of coaches at the Leopards’ den was high. 

AFC Leopards’ tactician James Nandwa is in the spotlight because the team has not won any match so far this season. 

Leopards were knocked out of continental Confederations Cup by South Africa’s SuperSport and they now shift focus on the league.

During the continental matches, Gor eliminated Bitam of Gabon in the Championships League while AFC Leopards triumphed over Ethiopia’s Defence during their preliminary Confederations Cup matches.

Gor were thrashed 5-0 by Esperance and AFC lost to SuperSport in the first round. 

As proper action begins in the league for Leopards and Gor Mahia, Nandwa must rally his troops for goals lest he face the wrath of the impatient and overzealous Ingwe fans who want nothing short of the league title after losing it to Gor last season.