Flames and Big Bullets coach Eddington Ng’onamo and his role model Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho have a lot in common.
They were both soccer addicts as young boys influenced by their fathers who were players before becoming coaches. But both never made it big as players and did not turn professional.
However, they decided to immerse themselves in sports science to become successful coaches, proving that it does not take one to be a great player to be a good coach.
“In modern football, sports science is vital in developing great coaches who can analytically study the game, opponents and systems and I am a better coach because of mastering the books and not using past experience. That is what most local coaches should do, study,” said Ng’onamo in an interview on Thursday.
Frustrated by his failure to turn into a soccer star, Ng’onamo, like Mourinho, went for a teaching course and became a physical education trainer. He taught in numerous primary and secondary schools just like his idol.
He then coached a number of amateur teams and gained more knowledge after working under foreign coaches, a path the Madrid mentor also took.
Mourinho learnt the tricks as an interpreter to English Bobby Robson at Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon and Barcelona in Spain, whereas Ng’onamo was the right-hand man for Danish tactician Kim Splidsboel and Englishman Allan Gillet when they coached the Flames between 2000 and 2003.
It may sound ridiculous to compare Mourinho, a two-time UEFA Champions League winner and multi-league championships and cup winner in four top European countries to Ng’onamo who has only two local cups, but to his credit, the latter deserves respect for breaking the monotony in Malawi where all club coaches and national coaches are former top players.
Last season, he was the only coach in the Super League who had never played football, yet he led Bullets to their first silverware in 10 years after clinching the Presidential Cup, as well as a respectable second-position finish in the Super League, their best since they won the league in 2005.
“I believe in my abilities from the numerous courses I have attended and the books I read every day that I am good coach tactically.
“I struggled to find a job because officials of teams said I could not coach because I did not play football. Some teams rejected me because they said I did not play for them, but that did not discourage me,” said Ng’onamo.
He is one of the most decorated football coaches with the highest coaching qualifications on the local scene. He has the UEFA A Preparatory course, which enables him to go for the best coaching licence on the planet, the UEFA A Professional, held by top coaches such as Mourinho.
He also holds several diplomas in football coaching from Germany, Denmark, England and Scotland as well as other qualifications in sports psychology and human behaviour.
“It is my dream that FAM or government will send me for that UEFA A course. But I am also saving on my own to fund myself for that course in the near future if I don’t get funding,” he said.
He served in the now defunct Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP) in the late 1980 and after coaching schools, Ng’onamo had a short stint with Civo United, Lilongwe Escom and Blue Eagles before joining the Kamuzu Institute for Sports in 1997.
In 2003, he joined Mighty Wanderers whom he guided to win the Charity Shield.
He then served as FAM technical director between 2003 and 2007. Since then, he has been going to Denmark every year under the invitation of Splidsboel, where he has had stints with 12 clubs to date in the lower leagues, including third-division side B93 and AIK 65 Stroby.
“He is also a good trainer, a highly qualified one. So, we do not necessarily look at where one is coming from, but abilities,” Stroby chairperson Bianna Monke said five years ago.
He was forgotten locally until he was hired by Bullets in 2011 when they were in the relegation zone and he saved them before guiding them to an enviable second-place finish in the Super League last season.
Ng’onamo was born in a family of 12, four girls and eight boys. Incidentally, all the boys are football coaches, but the rest are coaching at amateur level.
He is a father of five boys as of today having lost the last born son three weeks ago on the eve of the Flames’ 1-0 win over Namibia in a World Cup qualifier which forced him to return home in the morning of the match day.
“I loved the boy very much, but God loved him most. He loved football as well. But all my other sons are in good jobs with three of them graduates and one a chartered supplier and one an accountant,” said the CCAP faithful.