Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet arrived in the country last night to “meet the Zifa board” ahead of his possible unveiling as the new senior national soccer team coach and immediately declared he is here for the Warriors post.
Saintfiet arrived at the Harare International Airport at 1800hrs last night and was met by Zifa board member (competitions), Benedict Moyo. NewsDay was at the airport to get the exclusive first interview.
Saintfiet said: “I have no knowledge that there is controversy over my arrival here. The fact that I am here is a sign that I would be the national team coach.
“I want the job. I have not resigned from the Namibia national team. Things will shape up after one or two days when I meet the guys (Zifa board).”
Acting Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze had said earlier: “He has a meeting with the Zifa board. I’m not sure if he is going to be unveiled. You can ask Mr Gumede (Ndumiso Gumede Zifa First vice- president).”
Gumede was not available for comment last night. Saintfiet’s has arrived despite weekend reports that Zifa president Cuthbert Dube had “vetoed” a decision by the technical committee to appoint the Belgian as he wanted caretaker coach Norman Mapeza to get the job on a substantive basis.
The former Warriors skipper produced an impressive 1-1 draw away to Liberia in the opening 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifier match in Monrovia two weeks ago.
But that did not make any impact on the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) technical committee who swept Mapeza by the wayside and brought on board the 37 year-old Saintfiet.
Saintfiet was in India last week with the Namibia national team for an international friendly match and was allegedly contacted late on Friday.
Sources in Zifa also indicated at the weekend that Mapeza had been appointed the first assistant coach by virtue of being the Under-23 substantive coach, but turned down the offer, apparently due to the public assurance given to him by Dube.
The Belgian had earlier told Namibia Sport website that he would not be coming to Zimbabwe.
He said: “I have a contract with the Namibia Football Association till 2012 and I intend to fulfill that.
I have also heard these rumours with one paper even suggesting that I have been appointed as Zimbabwe’s coach, but they are unfounded because as you can see, I am still here with the Brave Warriors.
“I regularly receive offers through my agent and I have turned down several offers since I took up the post of Brave Warriors coach in 2008. At the moment I have also been approached by a club from Rwanda as well as another African football association, but I have not followed them up.
“I’m only interested in fulfilling my mission and taking the Brave Warriors to the 2012 Afcon finals.”
Now he might have to fulfill that mission with the other Warriors. But just who is Saintfiet?
Born on March 29 1973 in Mol, Belgium, he played football from 1983 to 1997 before becoming a football manager. At 24, Saintfiet became the youngest manager in Belgian football.
Before going to Namibia, he was manager of Finnish Premier League club RoPS Rovaniemi.
With Namibia he started on a high note by beating Comoros and Malawi and drawing against Lesotho in the Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup in South Africa in July 2008.
Namibia were eliminated from the quarter-final by subsequent winner and host South Africa.
Namibia had won only one game out of 12 before Saintfiet’s arrival. He has a Uefa A Pro licence which he got in 2000. In 2002, Saintfiet coached Faroese minnows B71 and finished second in the Faroe Islands First Division, but failed to gain promotion through the play-offs.
He then went on to become assistant coach to Walter Meeuws at Al-Ittihad of Qatar (now called Al-Gharafa Sports Club).
In 2004, Saintfiet helped Qatar Under-17 team to third place in the AFC Asian Championship and qualified for the Fifa World Championship Under-17.
Between 2006 and 2007, he was technical director for FC Emmen (Dutch First Division) and also worked as an advisor for the Kazakhstan Football Federation.
He has also worked as a TV football Analyst for Belgian Television and a translator for the DFB.
He studied sport psychology and economic psychology.