The Sunday Mail
One thing he values most is time and he gets livid when one misses an appointment by just a minute.
Harare City coach Mark “Mr Palm Tree” Harrison, was fuming when we arrived at his Harare flat a few minutes after the agreed time to join him on a drive to Waddilove High School where he delivered a business and sport lecture last Thursday.
“Some of you guys can’t survive a week at a job in England. I have noticed how most of the local people here disregard the importance of time keeping,” remarked Harrison as he took his seat in the car.
Harare City have a football development partnership with Waddilove being spearheaded by the club’s marketing manager Osbourne Maranda and has seen the Marondera learning institution rise to become one of the best football schools in the country.
Waddilove’s under 15s came fourth in last year’s Copa Coca Cola finals held in Zvishavane. Football development is Harrison’s cup of coffee and terms like philosophy, style and culture start flying around when he touches on the subject.
The “Miracle of Paris”, when Manchester United stunned favourites Paris St Germain 3-1 at the Parc de Princes last Wednesday, to progress to the UEFA Champions quarterfinal after having lost 0-2 at Old Trafford in the first leg, didn’t escape Harrison’s mind during this short trip to Waddilove.“You got to have a philosophy and stick to it if you are a serious club. Look at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson instilled a philosophy there and it took him over two decades to grow it.
“But, over the past four or five years that philosophy has been dying. The club’s executives realised this and so they brought in Ole (Solksjaer), Ferguson is back and involved at a certain level and you can see what’s happening,” said the British coach.
“Chopping and changing doesn’t get you anywhere, you look at Platinum locally, Norman (Mapeza) has been there for more than four years and you see what they are achieving there.”
The 58-year-old Harrison is the Premiership’s most sought after coach following his transformation of Harare City whose refreshing brand of football charmed a lot of neutrals last season.
He was once linked with the Dynamos job during Keni Mubaiwa’s reign as DeMbare president and late last year he was listed as one of Ngezi Platinum Stars’ top targets. The Mhondoro-based outfit then settled for Elroy Akbay.
Harrison then flew back from his long holiday in England a couple of days ago amid more rumors and corridor chatter linking him with reports to champions FC Platinum’s technical director’s job.
The reigning champions’ poor showing in the Caf Champions League only heighten such talk.
Harrison’s name has also been mentioned at Zifa, where some of the decision makers there are convinced the Briton gaffer could be a perfect replacement for Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa who is likely to quit the Warriors after the Africa Cup of Nations finals – should Zimbabwe qualify.
The 66-year-old Chidzambwa hinted on his retirement from the game last week when he announced the Warriors squad for the make or break final Afcon qualifier against Congo at the National Sports on March 24.With all this talk, trying to get an understanding on what is currently going through Harrison’s mind is kind of difficult, but when he gets into the groove his brutal honesty becomes evident.
The short trip to Waddilove would surely prove to be too little a time for such kind of a talk and the interview had to be concluded back at his flat.“It’s nice for people to talk about you. It shows you are doing something right but I would like to focus.
“How much truth is in those reports I don’t know.“The media writes a lot, people speculate but I just get on with my job and try to do the best I can with Harare City,” said the Uefa A coaching Licence holder.
Harrison is a longtime friend of Arsenal’s long serving assistant manager to Steve Bould and the two spent a lot of time together when the Harare City gaffer was on holiday in England.
“I played with Steve (Bould) at Stoke City, we have stayed friends forever. When I was in the UK for the holiday I stayed with him for a couple of days.
“He took me to the Arsenal training ground, what an amazing sight it was, out of this world. “We are always exchanging notes and I try to find out what sort of training they do there and we try it here with Harare City.
“Of course, we can’t match their technology, we are light years away,” revealed Harrison.
As the conversation progressed, Harisson suddenly shifted back to the local premiership and the African game at large.
As you would suspect, Harrison was brutal in his assessment of the African game and believes no African nation will win the World Cup “in our lifetime.”
“Can I see Africa catching up with Europe? No I can’t. The gap is too big,” he says.“It was good to see Steve (Bould) because I got to see how fast football is changing; how a football philosophy, style and culture have become important to a club.“I like Manchester United for their philosophy and Manchester City for their style. I am a disciple of Pep (Guardiola). I admire the way he gets his players to play out from the back, and I have tried to model our game at Harare City along those lines.
“Not this smash the ball as far as you can and see if you can get a goal out of it type of play, no that’s archaic football.
“If you want to be fair to Norman (Mapeza) I think he is doing it well at FC Platinum, he looks at Europe and tries to model his team along those lines,” revealed Harrison. The 2019 Premier Soccer League title race?
“Dynamos? No, I don’t see them as champions because they have done a lot of rebuilding. But football is strange game, very unpredictable.
“You expect FC Platinum to be in the mix at the end of the season but they have had no rest, they had Caf games starting in August so it will be pretty amazing if they retain the title.
“Joey Antipas told me personally he is going for the title. His side Chicken Inn will be the team to beat. You should also not rule out Triangle and Ngezi Platinum,” opined Harrison.
Harare City have beefed up their squad and now boast of one of the league’s most powerful midfield following the arrival of Peter “Rio” Moyo, ex Bulawayo City defensive linkman Tatenda Tawengwa and Walter Mukanga to join Moses Muchenje, Telmore “Kante” Pio and Learnmore Muyambo.Former Dynamos captain Marshal Machazane and Milton “Milito” Ncube are also now part of Harrison’s squad. Yet he still thinks the Sunshine Boys are not championship contenders.
“I think we are stronger than we were last year but I doubt if we are championship material yet.“We finished ninth last season so if we can finish top six we will be okay.”