OPINION: From the Field to Bench to A golden Generation
Kenn Okaka is the Media and Communications Manager at Football Kenya Federation
A legend is told of the hunter who left the comforts of his homeland, driven by ambition and thirst for greatness; The one who would years later return from the wilderness with great captures and accolades of victory. Dimitar Berbatov’s journey in football fits that bill.
The Bulgarian was a baler during his playing days. He made a name for himself in Italy, before ruling London with Tottenham and becoming an icon at Old Trafford. His long dalliance with the beautiful game continues long after retiring from actively playing, and he is on the journey towards recognition among the top coaches.
Just like Frenchman Patrice Evra, the former striker has been taking his UEFA badges. He took to social media in February to share some good news.
“Yes!" he wrote on his social media accompanied by a photo of a certificate. “Coaching badges UEFA- A! Next and last is the UEFA Pro licence! Because you never know where life is going to take you... and you need to be ready.”
Berbatov is just one of the many renowned former footballers refusing to get off the radar of the beautiful game, after serving it so diligently for years. Evra a former Manchester United and France defender, is regarded as one of the best-left backs in recent years. He returned to Manchester United in late 2019 to take his coaching badges.
The man who was part of the French World Cup squad in 2010 posted a photo in a Manchester United coaching kit with the caption:
"I can’t describe how I feel right now!!! Just wearing that training coach kit made me one of the happiest men thank you @manchesterunited for helping me to complete my coach badge!!! Day one done ? #ilovethisgame #positive4evra #love #family #manchesterunited,"
Taking up coaching is not just an international phenomenon. Several miles away, in Nairobi, Kenya was the culmination of 2021 Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Licence D coaching course at the Ligi Ndogo grounds along Ngong Road which attracted retired footballers, among them former Kenyan internationals.
They included Joakins Atudo, Edwin Lavatsa, Llyod Wahome, Ronald Okoth, Terry Ouko and Kenya Football Welfare Association (KEFWA) President James Situma who led by example by participating in the course.
It was an exciting moment for the players as they received their first certificates in coaching, officially opening their doors from the field to the bench.
FKF Licence D courses were also conducted successfully in Siaya and Kakamega where notable former players made the initial steps to graduate into coaching.
The federation has come up with an elaborate plan in ensuring that retired players are not only encouraged but also empowered with skills to make use of their sunset days by transitioning into the technical wing of the sport instead of falling into a state of despair and hopelessness.
Just as there is life after death, there’s another life for players after hanging their boots. In the last five years, FKF has endeavoured to train over 4,000 coaches from the Basic/Advanced, CAF D and CAF C levels.
While the major intention is to ensure players at the grassroot level are handled by the right personnel to raise the standard of football in the country, and bridge the capacity gap that has denied coaches job opportunities, FKF has continuously made sure former players and ex-internationals undertake the various FKF, CAF and FIFA coaching courses offered for free by the Federation.
It is the federation’s dream that in the next few years hundreds of former players and ex-internationals are transformed to licenced qualified coaches, trainers, instructors and sports administrators.
FKF recognizes that former players, as role models, have a great influence to the young generation and if armed with the right skills, are capable of mentoring players and transforming them into a golden generation.
FKF currently holds a vision to have both Harambee Stars and Starlets qualify for the next World Cup tournaments respectively and one of the major routes towards achieving this is to build the technical wing of the game, making sure Kenya has a pool of top-quality coaches who handle players from the grassroot to the national team level.
Some of the former players trained by the current Federation and are currently coaching Kenyan top league clubs include, Tom Juma the Team Manager at AFC Leopards; Antony Kimani, the Assistant Coach at Bandari FC; Francis Oduor, Lawrence Webo, Jerim, Onyango, Peter Dawo, Julius Owino, Mike Otieno, Tillen Oguta, all former Gor Mahia players; Ulinzi Stars’ Benjamin Nyangweso, Francis Onyiso, Steven Ocholla; the Ambani brothers – Fred and Bonface; Hillary Echesa, Francis Xavier, Ramadhan Balala, Former Gaspo and Harambee Starlets Assistant Coach Jackeline Juma, Noah Abich, Mathare United Women's Coach, Ann Aluoch, KEFWA president James Situma, Terry Ouko, Francis Chinjili, Sylvanus Otema among hundreds of other former players.
Senior FKF FIFA Instructors, who include national team and former Harambee Stars coaches have been engaged and involved in the bid to make this dream a reality. They include Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee, Francis Kimanzi, Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno, Musa Otieno, Twahir Muhiddin, Eunice Dolar, Caroline Ajowi and David Ouma. These top coaches have kept the FKF vision alive by coaching other coaches to earn their badges.
As FKF continues to roll out such projects as training coaches, a call is made to former players to embrace the coaching courses being offered. Those who have already earned their coaching badges are advised to stay active even in their local areas to transfer their football knowledge and experience to the young people at the grassroots which then increases the number of people participating in the game.