For the love of the beautiful game
As Africa’s moment of pride, the FIFA World Cup 2010 starting in South Africa today, is here, it is only befitting that we find one of our own long-serving and respected administrators to chat about the beautiful game. Though Botswana not only failed to make it to the most prestigious stage but also failed to get into the excitement of hosting any of the participating World Cup countries, the servant of the game is still coaching the coaches and stuck in the drawing board reshaping the future of Botswana football.
The lightly built yet big in reputation, Phillimon Makhwengwe knows the ins and outs of Botswana football. Always in the background, Makhwengwe has seen the many executives and administrations of the Botswana Football Association come and go.
He has been a player, coach, agent, manager and administrator. He is undoubtedly an assert to Botswana. Recently he has also been promoted at BFA to an influential post of coach educator. On the eve of South Africa 2010, MONNAKGOTLA MOJAKI had a sit down with the Doctor Phil of football.
Tell us about Phillimon. When you started playing football, where and how it was?
Like any other African child, I started my football in the dusty areas of my home village in Mahalapye. We used to kick the ball barefooted. I played at school and in the streets with the same commitment. I was a very passionate young athlete, with self-respect and honour. Later I played for Mahalapye Hotspurs, GNT, Queens Park Rangers, Tafic, Mahalapye Prisons, Grinaker Wanderers in South Africa, and Police X1, which I also co-coached. I also once trained in Zimbabwe with Zimbabwe Saints and Highlanders.
Looks like it has been a long journey as a coach and player, has it been worth it?
To be honest it was worth it and this has always been my passion. I believe I have been saved to serve football. Football has exerted a beneficial influence upon my life during my childhood and it has actually moulded me into a better human being. As a professional there were thrills, honour, enthusiasm, passion, hope, patience and faith. This is a big sport and there have been confrontations with this and that on the way. I can say I achieved more and failed less. As a player I have mixed feelings but as a coach I won championships and I have coached in all levels as well as travelled to a lot of countries, though mostly on self-sponsored initiatives – just for the love and passion of the game.
You were once a policeman. Why did you quit and does that in anyway help you in your career today?
Oh yes I was once a cop. I found the job as a secret operative a movie-like fun. I enjoyed being a ‘super cop’ and there was no noise about what we did like nowadays. Now there is a lot of misconception about certain agents. I am, however, still protective of my former organisation and its sister organs, this is somehow because I still have parents somewhere at the government enclave and Mogoditshane.
I quite because policing was my career and football my profession. I assumed my rightful place. When I left the police I worked at the bank and there was fear that I was a secret agent.
Some may say we are failing in the coaching side of things. Where are all the coaches you had been producing?
Coaches are in abundance and most of them are busy at development level. Of course, it is correct to say effective coaches are limited. Some come for training because they are handpicked at their respective schools or by clubs. Some are genuine coaches because it is not easy, it demands a lot of work and dedication. Coaching is not a bed of roses or a gateway to popularity. Non-adaptors backslide and end up hanging their certificates on the walls. But certificates without medals are not complete; it makes visitors wonder whether you are a coach or couch. We, however, try to retain our coaches by bringing external coach educators to breath more life into them.
With all these development programmes, why are the local coaches therefore not dominating the local football scene? Where are they?
They are there and plenty, they are engaged with clubs around the country. People can’t see them because they are not with the popular clubs. The big clubs go with the foreign coaches, it happens all over the world. How many local coaches have won the league in England? They occupy positions in first divisions and development levels. But I believe that local coaches need to create a more positive image for themselves. It is all about maturing.
I suppose as the coaches’ mentor, you must be worried that local coaches are not given opportunities?
Indigenous coaches are disadvantaged because it is clear that national associations do not entrust them with the responsibility to coach the top teams. How will they gain experience or showcase what they are made up of if they are sidelines? Their technical abilities and development are therefore being limited. I have said this many times to local clubs, but as BFA we can’t force clubs to employ certain people.
Only five of our players have made it to the elite league in South Africa at the PSL, why is it that we fail to produce as many as other countries?
That only five have made it to a more professional league does not mean we failed. We can produce a lot of players but it takes a lot of things. Finding an opportunity is not that easy. We have to try and penetrate and clubs can do that. Remember when I tried to help during the Cyprus issue where people started accusing me of all sorts of things.
Some doubt your coaching education, are you sure you are doing the right thing and are you regulated?
We offer what is offered all over the world. We are given the same FIFA coaching manuals and as a country we can produce our own manuals but in line with FIFA, CAF and UEFA. Some of us, without blowing my own trumpet, have seen the best coaching methods in the world even at very big clubs in the world and I challenge all doubting Thomasses to test my knowledge in the field of play. Of all my analysis of the elite league, I had never gotten it wrong. Critics will always find reason to look down upon people.
How has been the growth of football from the technical aspect?
Football has grown; we are no longer perennial underachievers. Technique is impressive and only tactics should be upped a bit and so should the psychological and physiological aspect. All this is attributed to our development programmes of the school of excellence and school leagues.
You are now the coach educator; do you think the appointment is due now or long overdue?
I have always been a coach educator. My new position actually is that of Education Officer. I already have a roadmap awaiting approval.
What will your new role entail then and will you honestly cope with the workload?
In liaison with CAF, UEFA and FIFA. This unit will see to it that quality education, training and development prevail in areas such as administration, coaching, medicine and refereeing. We have to re-define coaching pathways and stop things like general coaching at club level. There is need to attend to various factors.
Do you have any regrets since working for the BFA?
Not at all, I could have left if I had an issue. This is a gateway to global entries. But I regret working with people whose agendas was to stall football progress and some of its vibrant servants of football. I have, however, put all things in God’s hands. I have gotten a place at Newcastle University and an opportunity to work with the Newcastle team in England. There was a personal vendetta on that, this year I have been admitted at Wolverhampton and there is the big question of whether it will come to pass. These are challenges, but not regrets.
In terms of the World Cup why do you think Botswana has failed to benefit from the hype?
I am still very bitter with the whole thing. There were benefits like the Rustenburg offering Botswana cultural exchanges. We can’t really know why some teams failed to come here. As a citizen I wouldn’t want to see developments for events only. We still need to be assisted fully to qualify for AFCON.
Botswana has gone down the World rankings, what do you attribute that to and don’t you think the country should stop competing?
That can be because of lack of international games. All games’ results should be sent to FIFA and we should play top footballing nations. We can’t stop competing, that will be like committing suicide. Big countries also suffer the same things, you know South Africa didn’t qualify for AFCON 2010, they can’t give up. We need to reduce unconstructive criticism.
FULLNAMES: Phillimon Makhwengwe
PLACE OF BIRTH: Mahalapye AKA Kwa Diponeng
DATE OF BIRTH: 06 FEBRUARY 1967
MARITAL STATUS: Engaged to football
CHILDREN: Lamey, Bebe, Pepwe, Neo, Eno and all orphans
HOBBIES: Reading, Writing, Travelling, Bush camping, going to the cattle post, playing guitar and writing poems.
MUSIC: Various local artists
CURRENTLY READING: Thinking Big and Mind Power
FAV FOOD: Papa and Phane
FAV DRINK: Coke Zero
FAV CAR: Escarlade