The Sunday Mail
NGEZI Platinum Stars play their 155th Premier Soccer League match this afternoon against Triangle at Baobab Stadium, but the Mhondoro miners are back in the spotlight following the recent sacking of Benjani Mwaruwari.
The former Manchester City striker was the club’s fifth substantive coach since 2016 when they made their top-flight debut.
Before Mwaruwari, there was Klifton Kadurira, Tonderai Ndiraya, Elroy Akbay and Rodwell Dhlakama.
Given that there was no league competition in 2020 due to Covid-19, the turnover averages a coach per season.
The five coaches have all been victims of Ngezi’s ever-revolving door.
Assistant coach Takesure Chiragwi will be in charge on an interim basis once again today.
This is the second time Chiragwi has taken the reigns in an acting capacity this season.
In fact, three different coaches — Dhlakama, Mwaruwari and Chiragwi — have been in charge of Ngezi’s 22 games so far this season.
It is against this background that the miners have been considered Zimbabwe’s version of South African Premiership side Chippa United, who have a notorious record of a high turnover of coaches.
Their chairperson Chippa Mpengesi has employed almost 30 coaches in the last eight years.
There have been a number of theories to try and explain the high turnover at Ngezi, who have managed a top-four finish in the last three seasons.
The only time they failed to claim a top-four position was in 2016, but they won the Chibuku Super Cup in that debut season in the elite league.
Top officials at the club, however, insist they do not put immense pressure on coaches as they only “aspire to be a top-four Premier League club”.
They claim that winning the league title is actually not uppermost in the club’s targets.
But, this is the same club that fired Ndiraya with five games left in the 2018 season when they were just five points behind log leaders and eventual champions FC Platinum.
Ngezi maintained second place but Ndiraya was already gone.
“The changes that have happened to the technical team over the years have been driven by team performance in some instances, but, equally important, also driven by the need for alignment between the individuals to the club’s vision, ethos and values.
“The board always seeks a strategic fit between the head coach and the club’s culture,” Ngezi said in a statement to The Sunday Mail Sport.
After suffering his fourth loss in 13 matches, Mwaruwari was the latest to be shown the door on Monday.
He left the club on 30 points, nine behind third-placed Dynamos, going into the last 12 games of the season.
Upon his appointment, Mwaruwari had also promised to link Ngezi players with some European clubs, especially those that he turned out for such as AJ Auxerre of France.
This was one of the major reasons Ngezi settled for him despite his coaching inexperience.
He got the nod ahead of veteran coaches like Mark Harrison, Kelvin Kaindu, Luke Masomere and Moses Chunga who had shown interest in the job.
The ex-Warriors skipper opted to promote a couple of players from the Under-19 team ostensibly with the vision of exporting players.
Youthful players Tinotenda Musariranwa, Takunda Benhura and promising central midfielder Leslie Kashitigu benefitted.
Gradually, senior players like Wellington Taderera, Valentine Kadonzvo, Marvelous Mukumba and Tinashe Sibanda fell by the wayside.
Denver Mukamba, who is approaching 30 and is no longer as effective as he was when he claimed the Soccer Star of the Year award in 2012, was also relegated to the bench when Ngezi lost 0-1 to Yadah last weekend.
Mwaruwari’s success rate fell to 38 percent in his 13 games, leading to his sacking.
Under his guidance, Ngezi recorded three wins, six draws and four losses.
He had taken over from Chiragwi, who presided over six games and registered two wins, including a big one against rivals FC Platinum at Mandava, two draws and as many losses.
Chiragwi, who succeeded Dhlakama, collected eight points out of a possible 18, translating to a 44 percent success rate.
Dhlakama was in charge of Ngezi’s opening three matches of the season, winning two, including a 5-0 thumping of Bulawayo City, and drawing one.
The veteran gaffer, who also guided Ngezi to two consecutive Chibuku Super final appearances, collected seven points out of nine in those opening games, translating to a 78 percent success rate.
He was suspended in February for alleged misconduct before resigning from his post in March.
A former footballer, who refused to be named for professional reasons, questioned Ngezi’s direction.
“Here is a football club that only got into the PSL as recent as 2016 and already they have changed coaches countless times.
“They have finished in the top-four in the last three seasons, won the Chibuku Super Cup twice in 2016 and 2018. I think for a club that is six-years-old in the PSL, they have done quite well,” he said.
“But, I think they have a problem when it comes to clarifying their objectives to coaches. They seem not clear on what they really want to achieve.
“Do they want to promote talent and export? Are they into football as a corporate social responsibility? Are they a club that is always targeting the league title?
“It’s not clear?”
For a club that gobbles about US$1,8 million per season, perhaps the executive is entitled to demand results.
Ngezi are one of the most stable clubs in the country and have a professional set-up that is backed by good infrastructure.
“As a club, we strive for professionalism by providing quality, seamless football programmes and services,” the club says.
“We are committed to developing players from the grassroots to secure and build a sustainable talented pool of professional football players.
“We aspire to be a top-four Premier League club.”
Ngezi Platinum Stars revealed that winning the league title was not a top priority.
Read more on www.sundaymail.co.zw
“It certainly would be nice to achieve that (league title) but our vision is to play exciting and entertaining football, build a strong brand and a football institution with strong grassroots development, and institution that will outlive us.”
Along their six-year journey, they have also played in Africa, representing Zimbabwe in the 2017 CAF Confederation Cup after winning their Chibuku Super Cup success under Ndiraya.
Perhaps the club became highly ambitious after that historic achievement.
“You have got to understand them (Ngezi). They are a club that invests a lot and attract good players so results are naturally demanded,” said one analyst.
Perhaps they could now settle for Chiragwi, who has been retained in the set-up.
Maybe they could also take a leaf from rivals FC Platinum, who employed four different coaches between 2011 and 2014 before settling for a long-term deal with Norman Mapeza.
Benjamin Moyo (late), Rahman Gumbo, Tenant Chilumba and Lloyd Mutasa all took charge at FC Platinum before Mapeza was appointed in August 2014.
He had a brief stint with Chippa United in 2019 before returning to Zvishavane.
Ngezi Platinum Stars league stats since 2016
250 points out of a possible 462
54 percent success rate