Despite guiding Big Bullets into a bubbly verve of form this season, head coach Elia Kananji says he is struggling to cope with ‘internal politics’ at the People’s Team.
Kananji, whose six-month in-charge has yielded the team Carlsberg Cup and top of the TNM Super League for the first-time in a decade, told Nation on Sunday that he is experiencing the ‘pull-him-down’ syndrome by some officials and some players.
The youthful trainer also bemoaned the Bullets administrators’ dilly-dallying on fulfilling their pledge to improve his ‘unsatisfactory’ salary as another big challenge.
According to Kananji—who guided relegation-threatened Blantyre United to a respectable third-place finish in the league on his second season as head coach in 2012—these might be some of the problems that affected his predecessors Gerald Phiri and Eddingtone Ng’onamo at Bullets.
“I have learned that it is not easy to handle a big team such as Bullets, especially when you are ambitious and seem to be delivering. If you allow frustrations to take their toll on your work, you flop. Coaching Bullets requires mental strength,” said the 37-year-old.
“There have been frustrating talks among some officials and some players have even created forums against me, but I just stay strong. Not everyone will love you in this world.”
He added that although he is open to criticism as coach, it is not right for some people to make statements aimed at frustrating him at the club.
However, Kananji, who signed a year-long contract with Bullets before the league kicked off in April, said he does his best to make friends with his players and understand problems because he knows that their team’s success depends on their performance on the pitch.
“I believe a good coach should be able to interact with his players as friends and understand the problems they face both on and off the pitch. This is my strategy and I am happy it is bearing me sweet fruits,” he said
Bullets’ chairperson Kondi Msungama has since advised the coach to develop a thick skin.
“Kananji is carrying a team with over six million followers and he should always expect to face such challenges because where there are two or more people, misunderstandings are bound to appear.
“The PHD (pull-him-down) syndrome is everywhere in the world and it requires mature thinking and a strong heart to survive. I also face such problems and if I had a weaker skin, I could have stepped down by now,” said Msungama.
On the salary issue, the Bullets boss said the coach should be patient because the adjustments will be done once their hunt for a league title is achieved.
“We will even triple the technical panel’s perks at the end of the season. Kananji should also understand that we are an unsponsored team that cannot afford to increase their allowances and game bonuses every month. I beg for his patience,” said Msungama.
Bullets senior player Fischer Kondowe agreed with Kananji that there are always two factions of officials at the club, one of which does not want to see the coach succeed.
“I will not mention names, but I have noted that some officials are indeed jealous of the coach’s achievements. They do not want the team to do well under someone’s guidance. Such things have always been there since I joined the team and my only advice to the coach is to ignore them and keep going forward,” said Kondowe.
The team’s supporters committee chairperson Stone Mwamadi said yesterday that although he is not aware of the PHD syndrome, he feels the coach is not being supported.
“He needs to be respected at all times and we need not disappoint him.
“He is the only one that will win us a league title in a decade,” said Mwamadi.
Third born son to former boxer Karim Elia, Kananji holds Class-C he obtained after retiring as a football player in 2004.
The former Escom United (now Kabula United) and Cobbe Barracks midfielder, who is married and has three sons, had been assistant coach to Leo Mpulula at Blantyre United between 2008 and 2010, before he was promoted to coach.