Like a giant’s robe on a dwarfish thief, the 2019 Coach of the Year coat hangs loose on Antipas

Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
HIGHLANDERS’ Flying Dutchman, Hendrik Pieter de Jongh, turned 49 yesterday and, amid a shower of love he received from the Bosso family, there was also an underlying sense of regret.

A story of what might have been, for both club and coach, had their romance started earlier than when they eventually found each other in September this year.

Like what if, for instance, their union had come at the beginning of the season instead of at the tail end of the campaign when Bosso were just four points clear of relegation trouble?

Or like what if, for instance, their union had come even midway through the season, instead of at the very end, when Bosso were now in a mess?

Football is a very funny game and no one knows for sure about what could have happened and if the Dutchman would have written this Cinderella tale which he has scripted since his arrival.

A Chibuku Super Cup in the trophy cabinet, in a campaign in which his team eliminated Dynamos at Rufaro and thrashed FC Platinum, and a rise on the table into fifth place represents a beautiful success story.

Unbeaten, on all fronts since taking over, De Jongh has been the stand-out coach of the final phase of the domestic Premiership.

“Today, our TM (technical manager) Hendrikus Pieter de Jongh turns 49,” Bosso posted on their Twitter page yesterday.
“Happy birthday to the Chibuku Super Cup Champion.

“As the Club wishes you many more fruitful years to come, continue enjoying the love you’re getting from the Highlanders fans scattered all over the world.”

De Jongh could have been a strong contender for the Coach of the Year, had he come to Bosso two weeks before their marriage, with the Dutchman just falling two games short of the required number of games to fight for the gong.

And, in a season where the selectors somehow settled for Chicken Inn gaffer, Joey Antipas, for the Coach of the Year award, De Jongh’s stunning success story underlined the circus of the choice of the eventual winner.

With Norman Mapeza and Lloyd Chitembwe having been eliminated, probably because they left their championship-chasing teams midway in the season, the selectors appear to have settled for the one who remained in the trenches at the top three clubs.

But they appear to have been blinded to the reality that Chicken Inn’s campaign, which was in a very healthy state at the time Mapeza jumped ship on September 12, has taken a nosedive since then.

The Gamecocks find themselves five points adrift of championship leaders CAPS United, with just two games to play, and it’s a fair bet they are unlikely to be champions this season.

Crucially, they are going to fall short of the number of points (61) they had last season because, even if they win their remaining two matches, they will only get to 59 points.

The domestic Premiership must be the only league in the world which rewards a coach whose team, compared to the previous season, would have seen its share value devalued by two points.

It’s like giving Pep Guardiola the Coach of the Season, so far in the English Premiership, when his Manchester City have fallen so far off the pace being set by Liverpool.

For Chicken Inn, because of their sound corporate backing, in a league with a sizeable membership that wallows in poverty, are expected to compete for honours every season.

It’s the message which this award sends, where Antipas can be Coach of the Year for finishing first in 2015, and be Coach of the Year for finishing third four years later, which confuses many.

Given this is an award merely chosen on performance in the domestic Premiership, the league and its affiliate knockout competition called the Chibuku Super Cup, the choice of Antipas as Coach of the Year appears a controversial one.

Maybe, he was rewarded for guiding the Warriors to that AFCON win in Zambia and leading them to the CHAN finals but, those matches, are not considered when it comes to the selection of the Coach of the Year.

If performances for the national team carried so much weight, in deciding who wins these awards, then Ian Nekati — for his strong showing for the Warriors — should have squeezed himself into the top three in the Soccer Stars of the Year race.

In a game where statistics are what matters, maybe, it’s important to look at how the season unfolded and try and see what could have convinced the selectors to come up with their Coach of the Year.

Antipas and his Gamecocks won nine matches, drew four and lost SIX by the time Chitembwe left the Green Machine on August 9.
That represented 31 out of 57 points and a 54.38 percent success rate.

During the same period Chitembwe and his Green Machine had 10 wins, four draws and five losses for 34 out of 57 points.
That represented a 59,64 percent success rate. Mapeza and his FC Platinum had 10 wins, five draws and four losses for 35 out of 57 points and led the way with a 61,40 percent success rate. Then, like Chitembwe, Mapeza also left on September 12. Before he walked away from FC Platinum, the champions had won 10 games, drawn seven and lost five and had 37 out of 66 points for a 56,06 percent success rate.

CAPS United has 11 wins, five draws and six losses with 38 out of 66 points representing a 57.57 percent success rate.
Chicken Inn had a similar run with 11 wins, five draws and six losses with 38 out of 66 points representing a 57,57 percent success rate.

Since then, after Mapeza left, FC Platinum have won five matches, drawn four times and lost just once. They have picked up 19 out of possible 30 points under Lizwe Sweswe for 63,33 percent success rate.

CAPS United have won six matches, drawn two and lost two under Darlington Dodo, since Mapeza left, picking up 20 out of 30 points for an impressive 66,66 percent success rate.

In sharp contrast, Antipas and his Chicken Inn have picked just three wins — half the number of games which CAPS have won — lost four times, twice the number of games the Green Machine have lost.

They have drawn three times to get just 12 out of 30 points and, from a high of 57,57 percent success rate, before Mapeza left, they have fallen to getting just 40 percent of their possible share of points.

That has seen then drifting five points adrift of the championship leaders yet their gaffer was on Friday night named the Coach of the Year. Some will rightly argue that, among those who started the championship race and remain in charge of their teams, he was the best. Fair point but then there should be a definition of what makes one a Coach of the Year? Does it mean that had everyone who started the race left their clubs midway through the campaign, and only the Mushowani Stars gaffer was left standing, he would win the Coach of the Year award?

There must be some serious introspection among the selectors because however one might want to look at it, when you consider the statistics of what happened in the league this season, Antipas doesn’t merit the award of Coach of the Year. Rules are rules, it’s as simple as that, and if they were applied to exclude De Jongh for the Coach or the Year, they should also have been enforced to ensure that only the Premiership games, and not national team assignments, matter in the Coach of the Year award.