BY HENRY MHARA IN MHONDORO NGEZI
FORMER Warriors captain Benjani Mwaruwari has declared his intention to “win things” with Ngezi Platinum Stars after he was unveiled at the Mhondoro-Ngezi club yesterday.
The former Manchester City striker penned a four-year deal, taking over from Rodwell Dhlakama, who resigned from the club last month.
He will be assisted by former Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu, who has come in as a first assistant while Takesure Chiragwi, who was the interim coach, is the second assistant coach.
Mwaruwari’s former national team colleague Tinashe Nengomasha has been roped in as the team manager, while Tonderai Vera is the performance analyst.
The club has retained veteran goalkeepers’ coach Cosmas Zulu in the new technical team set-up.
“I feel excited to be involved with such a club like Ngezi Platinum Stars. It’s a club that has got potential and you can see what they want to do and want to achieve, so I’m excited to be part of this,” the Warriors legend said during the unveiling ceremony.
His pedigree to take on the huge task of coaching an ambitious club like Ngezi Platinum has been called into question. Besides his cameo role as a Warriors assistant where he spent a few months, the Undertaker has not coached at a higher level before.
A holder of a UEFA A coaching badge, he has only had attachments with developmental and junior sides at his former clubs Portsmouth in England and Auxerre in France.
But he is taking inspiration from former England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard who went straight into coaching at a higher level soon after hanging his boots.
The former midfielder, who currently coaches Aston Villa, has previously worked at Glasgow Rangers in Wales.
“I have seen a lot of coaches who after playing football went straight into coaching and did well. We have seen Gerrard (Steven) doing well in his career. I’m not saying I will be like Gerrard, but if you get that opportunity you must take it and use it. I couldn’t say no because I did my coaching badges to come and be a coach. Very fortunate that I’m starting here in a big team like Ngezi which has a potential to achieve things.
“I wanted this. I worked hard for two years to get my badges and I still want to learn and I’m glad that Ngezi has given me the platform to showcase what I have. If I’m a good coach, everyone will see and results will show.
“As a coach, I would want to leave something that people will remember me with, like winning things, going to play in Africa or to develop youngsters. When you walk around saying I developed Benjani or so and so who will be doing well with his career somewhere, those are the kind of things that make someone happy and be remembered for.”
Mwaruwari’s brief, according to the club’s vice-president technical Lysias Chiwozva, is to “play thrilling football and build a team good enough to compete locally, regionally and on the continent”. He has also been tasked to spearhead the setting up of a Ngezi Platinum Stars Football Academy to develop young players from the age of 11, which will act as a feeder to the senior team.
“The team must thrill fans week in-and-out, that is non-negotiable. But at the same time we have to develop players for the export market. The club must start benefiting from football as a business,” Chiwozva said.
Mwaruwari accepted the challenge.
“When you get appointed you are given a target. So I was given a target mainly to develop youngsters to be a feeder into the first team squad. But that is not a ticket of not winning matches. As coaches, our bags are always packed so I would have to find a balance where I would be trying to develop players into the main squad as well as winning matches.”
He is also satisfied with his backroom staff, as well as his playing personnel.
“I’m glad that Takesure, who was there, who knows the team so well, is around, and I have Bongani Mafu, who knows how to coach and even the team manager Nengomasha has experience, so if we plan well we will definitely achieve something here.
“The squad has the potential. We need to have that stability, work together and pull in the same direction. Once we do that and a bit of some luck sometime, we can achieve extraordinary things. In football you have to work hard for you to achieve.”
Ngezi Platinum Stars are currently on fifth place on the log standings, and Mwaruwari’s first official match is away to Bulawayo Chiefs at the weekend.
Ngezi Platinum Stars chairperson Leonard Musariri explained the reason behind Mwaruwari’s appointment.
“It was a vigorous task to find a new coach after the resignation of Rodwell Dhlakama. The board and the executive had to go through a number of CVs. They were a lot. You wouldn’t believe we received more than a dozen applications from worldwide, from renowned coaches who really wanted to come and join us. The club took a decision to take Benjani. We are a club known for producing talent and he should be one of those we are going to produce as a coach. He has made his name already on the field of play, but we are going to make Benji to be a renowned coach in the country.”
Mwaruwari made his name playing in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Switzerland and a number of clubs in the English Premiership, including Manchester City.
But critics believe that coaching is a different terrain altogether for him and say appointing him was a huge gamble that the club took looking at their aspirations of winning the league this year as well as making a mark in Africa.
“Business is all about risks and in any case this is not a risk because we are talking about a renowned somebody who has seen it all. With all he has seen we want him to practice it and this is an opportunity that we want to give him to impart the knowledge that he got internationally into our local system so that we produce good results.”
Ngezi Platinum has publicly stated their desire to win the league title this year, and the chairperson said they have not revised their targets even with the disruption that was caused by the departure of Dhlakama and arrival of a new technical team in the middle of the campaign.
“Our target is still the same. Much higher because we have brought in much more experience personnel and we have added in more people. If you look at the structure, we have not removed anybody. Instead, we have added more people into our structure so we wouldn’t revise our target downward.
We are quite clear, we are aiming for the title and any other cups that are on offer. They should come to Ngezi.”
Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara