Off the field with Rodwell Dhlakama

rodwell_dhlakamaIn an interview with The Zimbabwean on Sundays Grace Chirumanzu last week, Monomotapa coach Rodwell Dhlakama praised his teams run in the Caf Champions League despite the Zimbabwean champions, who started their campaign well, ending up as the whipping boy in Group B. Excerpts: (Pictured: Rodwell Dhlakama)

Grace Chirumanzu (GC): How would you describe your experience in the Caf Champions League?

Rodwell Dhlakama (RD): It has been a challenging experience; football at that level is very demanding and more challenging. As a coach, I had to make sure that players understood (the significance of) the competition because at this (Caf) level Monomotapa is representing Zimbabwe. I have learnt a lot and I believe it has made me a better coach.

GC: And your teams overall performance in the continental league?

RD: As a young side I think they have done well. The team is dominated by young players who have no experience of handling pressure at such a high level. In most of the cases they succumbed to the hostile tactics of their opponents.

For example, when we went to Nigeria for the game against Heartland, we were not able to train and the food there was not good. It was so bad it became difficult for the players to keep focused on the game. You will have noticed that Tunisias Etoile du Sahel, who also have a young side, were affected by the (negative) psychological tactics of the Nigerians.

GC: What would say to your fans who had hoped that you would be able to emulate Dynamos by reaching the semi-finals?

RD: First I should admit that Dynamos is a big club with a very large supporter base. We played for the first time in the continent against big African sides, in virtually empty stadiums; we just didnt get as much support as a team representing the country.

The teams we played were experienced, TP Mazembe and Etoile have both won the cup before, Heartland have played in the champions league and went as far as the mini league, it is only that they were playing under a new name, this year.

I strongly believe we did the best we could as the games became more demanding at the same time as we faced financial challenges. I do not usually want to compare but we have been the second team to reach the mini league, how many times did Highlanders win the local league championship? But did they go as far as the mini league? A number of teams have won the league and went on to be eliminated in the preliminary round. I think we did well.

GC: You are playing your last Group B match on Sunday (today) against a high-flying Heartland in a game that will not change the fact that Monoz will be out of the Champions League. How are you taking the game?

RD: Well, we have always played every game with a burning desire to win and so we shall take this game seriously as well. We want to win this match because we dont want to be remembered as the team that won only one and lost five of their matches.

GC: Some of your critics say your predecessor, Norman Mapeza, would have achieved better results had he been in charge. Your comments?

RD: Well, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but it would have been more reasonable if they compared me with (David) Mandigora who took charge of DeMbare in the champions league, last year.

It is just myopic to say Mapeza would have done better when he has never coached in the champions league. We have only three coaches so far in the country who have taken their teams into the mini-league and beyond. I believe I have also done so well with the junior national teams, it will be unfair for people to be as narrow-minded to judge me as a failure because Monomotapa did not get to the semifinals.

Post published in: Zimbabwe Sports News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *