By Robson Sharuko
GEORGE MBWANDO, the former Warriors’ wingback, says Zimbabwe should pluck a leaf out of the manual used by Germany to revive its football, on both the international and domestic fronts, and he is ready to play a huge role in that ambitious programme.
The Germans have been enjoying a purple patch in recent years with their national team flying high, after reaching the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup where they were one of the outstanding teams, and their clubs also making a huge impression in European competitions.
Two German clubs, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, will play in the first all-German Uefa Champions League final at Wembley on May 25, after they swept away Spanish giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid, in their semi-final showdown.
Bayern Munich will be playing in their third Champions League final, in the last four seasons, and it was the comprehensive nature of their seven-goal demolition of Barcelona, in their semi-final extravaganza, which made the world to stand up and take notice.
Having thrashed Italian champions Juventus 4-0 in the quarter-finals, Bayern Munich’s 7-0 annihilation of Barcelona meant they scored 11 goals, without conceding any, in their four matches against the powerhouses of Serie A and La Liga.
Dortmund’s progress into the Champions League final was a nervy affair, after they leaked two late goals in Madrid, but they played large parts of the match without their talisman, Mario Gotze, and they also blew away a number of good chances.
There is a common denominator, in the revival of the German national football team, the rise of Dortmund as a powerful team and the way Bayern Munich have bounced back, this season, to reclaim their domestic league championship crown, in record-breaking fashion, and also qualify for the Champions League.
Mbwando, who is based in the German city of Ingolstadt and has been staying in the European country for 15 years now, says the biggest influence in the revival of football there has come from the contribution of former German superstar, Matthias Sammer.
A former national team player who won the European Cup with Germany in ’96, won the Uefa Champions League with Dortmund the following year, coached Dortmund to the Bundesliga title, worked in the German Football Association as technical director since 2006, before joining Bayern Munich as Sporting Director last year, Sammer has been a huge influence.
When the DFB, the German Football Association, needed someone to provide technical expertise to an ambitious programme, where a lot of emphasis would be given to players in the range of 11 years to 18 years, they turned to Sammer in 2006, to work closely with national coach Joachim Low, and the results have been phenomenal.
When Bayern Munich needed a technical expert, after the deflation of a season without a major trophy in which they lost the Bundesliga title to Dortmund and their Champions League final to Chelsea in their backyard, the Bavarian giants turned to Sammer.
Yesterday, Mbwando told The Herald that Zimbabwe should take a leaf from how the Germans have conducted their business, especially in the past 10 years, and he believes he could play the same role that Sammer has played, in this country, and with positive results in the long-term.
“I have been following Matthias Sammer’s work for some time now and I have to say that he has been at the centre of the revolution that we see in German football today and it’s something that I believe can also be implemented back home, to revive our football, and I am willing to play a big part in that,” said Mbwando.
“Sammer has spent the past 10-or-so years leading a programme that concentrates on the development of junior players to ensure that they are given all the help they can receive to prepare them to one day, be able to play and perform for the national team.
“The clubs in Bundesliga 1 and 2 have, under his orders as the DFB technical director, also been forced to concentrate on grooming fresh talent and clubs can’t get a licence now unless they can prove they have a thriving school of football in their system.
“The result of all this is that we have seen a huge number of young and talented German footballers that have been coming through and only in the past few weeks, we had Bayern Munich paying a record fee, for a German player being transferred in the Bundesliga, when they acquired Mario Gotze.
“Most of their best players now are under the age of 24 and there are more that are on the wings and waiting to explode right now and it’s something, in terms of a long-term plan, which I believe we must adopt as Zimbabwe and it could make a huge change to our football.”
Mbwando said there were not shortcuts to football success stories and Zimbabwe should start from scratch again, invest in its youth structures and try and build teams from there rather than trying to first get instant success at national team level.
“It’s not about Zifa alone trying to get it right with the youth national teams but having a policy that also makes youth teams fashionable, and a must, for all the Premier League and Division One and Two teams and making it a must that those without such structures will not be given a licence to operate,” said Mbwando.
“Then you need to follow up on those structures, like a monthly audit, to check if they are being kept alive and everything is okay and while it does not bring instant results now, I can guarantee you that it will bring success, not only for the national team, but also for our clubs, in the future.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we have the talent in our country but we don’t know how to deal with that talent and to develop those boys into real footballers who can make a difference.
“It’s a concept that I believe will change things at home and I am ready right now to leave Europe and come back to play that expert role because I feel I am qualified enough having played professional football here, played for the national team and acquired coaching qualifications.
“Matthias Sammer is 46 years old and I am 37 years old, football is changing and you need to keep abreast with the changes, the game has become technical and you can’t just apply old methods for a changing game.”
Mbwando said he contacted national coach Klaus Dieter Pagels to try and sell his concept but the German mentor told him that he was happy with the direction he was taking and the backroom staff that he was working with.
“I called Pagels but he said he was okay with his programmes and the people he was working with and I felt maybe he didn’t want any more guys in the set-up but I am not talking about coming there to be a coach or assistant coach but to work as a technical expert who can produce a long-term plan, from what I have seen, and follow up on that,” said Mbwando.
“Pagels has been bringing in some young players, which is good, but what we need is a system that develops those players from a young age, let’s say 11, so that when they come to play for the Warriors they are ripe athletes and not strangers to this level.
“I have been trying in the past week to talk to the Zifa president, Cuthbert Dube, and hopefully when I get the chance we can get some form of understanding.
“I can stay here in Germany, it has been my home for some time now, but if I can’t give back to my country, especially in areas that I can see we are lacking and we could change things in a very big way if we do this and that, I will always feel that I have let a lot of people down.
“My country gave me a chance to play football as a professional and I want to give something back.” The Herald