No more defeats? Goran Kopunovic's ouster and Christine Mwagala's outcry

By Guardian Reporter , The Guardian
Published at 10:52 AM Mar 28 2024
Tabora United FC's head coach, Goran Kopunovic.
Tabora United FC's head coach, Goran Kopunovic.

A BIT of the typical mentality when dealing with NBC Premier League coaches in particular was visible in the past week or so, as Tabora United made an exit pact with Goran Kopunovic, no novice in either local soccer or the region as he once led the Simba SC technical bench.

It was as usual a rather desperate attempt to rectify things, whereby at the local level as in the more technical foreign league runs, replacing a coach often has results, and at times handsomely.

That is what is being expected by the Tabora United leadership for the remaining matches of the league.

How far that may play out that way remains to be seen, but what is not quite likely is for the new coach, definitely in an acting capacity, to make good what club information officer Christine Mwagala was putting out as a clarion call from the management- no more defeats.

Technically it looks like a club vows to itself that it is tired of defeats, which is fine if there have been too many, but the side is not exactly on the bottom of the league, though they are hovering on the line of relegation, with a goal advantage over Geita Gold FC, as third in line for the kicker.

The formulation of what the club leadership wants from the interim coach is what in the usual language is covered by an expression, ‘if wishes were horses beggars would ride’, in the sense of impossibility.

Merely wishing that the club suffers no more defeats is no reason why such defeats will not take place since the side by and large remains the same.

At the same time, it is a statement to the effect that the technical bench ought to adopt defensive techniques to fill the playing side with a defensive mentality, with an option of either winning or drawing rather than losing by any margin.

Were that the case, perhaps the departed coach could have been advised to put into motion such techniques, ably used by Taifa Stars' interim coach Hemed Suleiman ‘Morocco’ in his outing especially against DRC in the 2023 AFCON finals.

For once, it is a little unclear how far the interim Taifa Stars coach used the same tactics in his friendly outing against Bulgaria, which also has to do with how far it was vital to ensure a no-defeat outcome.

Using an overly defensive-minded outfit is helpful to keep the other side at bay especially in disruptive tackling, not in building moves.

It is not, all the same, feasible to interpret the ‘no more defeats’ rallying cry by the club information officer in the sense of technique to be followed, but just sentiment in the sense that the club is tired of losing so many matches. It is technically empty.

As relative newcomers to the Premier League and tying at 21 points each with 21 matches played, the fact that Mashujaa FC and Tabora United- and regular campaigner Geita Gold FC find themselves at the same points level and have relative proximity in terms of experience in the Premier League shows that nothing is especially odd at the club.

If anything, Geita Gold FC was supposed to ask itself several pertinent questions as they were doing much better the previous season and appear to have lost out tremendously this season.

The disappointment at Tabora United seems to be tied to the level of preparations which, to an extent, was appreciable.

As this sacking of the coach comes after the short registration window has passed and whatever lessons were derived from the first part of the season had already started being put to use, the legroom for either the new coach or interim coach looks sort of limited.

It is not easy to change the squad at the moment and he has to rely on a slight shift of techniques to get results, implying that the coach whose services they disrupted was somewhat conservative in his attitude to the side. 

It would imply that the management or leadership looked at the matter and decided that a change could bring about positive results with the same squad instead of making matters worse.

Often when a coach is relieved of his duties there is an impression somewhere as to the sort of techniques that could work in the situation, for instance, what players to use in either this or that position, their combination, etc.

Again when a team loses there is blame-throwing that sometimes leads to a pressure cooker atmosphere, where the coach and several players cannot work together anymore.

Changing technical bench leadership is an act of mobilization between club leadership and players, in which case entering a new contract that things will go well so long as the coach goes.

At times the differences or atmosphere of remobilization is not between leadership and players but within the leadership, where the coach may be a bit too friendly with players, to the leadership's discomfort.

Being friendly with players involves ease of accepting the level of performance they put up, or behaviour in camp and outside the camp, as finally, the coach is the one who has to sound an alarm about the impact of outside life on the performance of a player.

Short of such ‘naming and shaming’, there is little the leadership can do as they are not close to players on a day-to-day basis.

It is these levers that the Tabora United leadership pulled, but results are not assured.