By Robson Sharuko
George Mbwando has dumped football to work as a technician in oil refineries in Europe after being frustrated by a brutal system of a game he believes does not appreciate the value of black African experts.
The former Zimbabwe international, who turned 44 last month, had until now spent all his life in football — as a player, budding coach and ambassador who used the power of the game to change lives of children orphaned by HIV/Aids in this country.
A member of the pioneer Class of Warriors, who represented the country at its maiden AFCON finals in Tunisia in 2004, Mbwando turned to coaching when his playing days were over.
He acquired a number of coaching badges in Germany, where he has been based for more than two decades now, to prepare himself fully for the days in the dugout, where he was sure he would write a success story.
However, Mbwando, who also at one stage wanted to have a crack at the ZIFA presidency, has had a change of heart and walked away from the game that has been a big part of his life since he emerged on the scene at Blackpool in the ‘90s.
He said he has been frustrated by a system in Europe which he feels is hostile towards black coaches while, back home, his initiatives have also not been embraced by some key stakeholders.
Mbwando said he was shocked by the fierce criticism he received online from some people here in Zimbabwe when he suggested he wanted to go around Europe doing some spying mission for the Warriors coaches ahead of the 2019 AFCON finals.
The former Zimbabwe international had suggested, if he was given the green light, to go around Europe looking at the strengths and weaknesses of some of the key players the Warriors would face in Egypt.
Even though he wanted to do it at his cost, all for the love of his country, Mbwando said he was shocked by the reaction and criticism he received back home, with some claiming he wanted to impose himself into the Warriors technical staff.
Matters haven’t been helped, he said, by the limited chances that black coaches like him have of getting a proper job in Europe where white coaches seem to be preferred.
So, despite investing a lot into his coaching, Mbwando dumped the game and went back to school where he trained to be a technician.
He is now working in oil refineries across Europe.
“I’m now working in an oil refinery as a technician,” he told The Herald just as the latest generation of Warriors began to troop into camp to start another AFCON qualifying campaign yesterday.
“I went back to school full-time for three years and acquired a diploma in metal technical Engineering.
“Since the beginning of the year, I have been working at a company called Xervon which repairs and maintains oil refineries around Europe.”
Speaking to him, Mbwando portrays a picture of a dejected man who gave everything to his game only for the game to turn its back on him once his playing career ended.
“Football is still the same old story — whether you are born here or not there are no chances for African coaches,” he said.
“Even if I renewed my A License last month, nothing is changing considering that many coaches I did all the licences with are coaching in the Bundesliga at the moment.
“Back home I was just frustrated by such people who are celebrated as Warriors special fans with the way they rush to criticise you every time you come up with different initiatives.”
Mbwando and his late partner Edzai Kasinauyo ran the Football Against HIV/Aids project which catered for children orphaned by HIV/Aids in Hwange.
The project was managed by home by three volunteer women dubbed the Good Hope Mothers.
Mbwando is not the only black coach who has been frustrated by the lack of opportunities in Europe.
Last year, a study revealed that only two black coaches were in charge of the 78 clubs in the top leagues in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.
Clarence Seedorf was Italian Serie A’s only second black coach in its 121-year history after Brazilian Jarbas Faustino who took charge of Napoli in the 1994/1995 season.
In May this year, England international Danny Rose told the BBC Football Focus that going for coaching badges, when he retires, would be a “waste of time.”
“I spoke about the lack of black managers in English football and got a mixed reaction, which I’m surprised about,” said Rose.
“I don’t think the numbers can lie and until somebody can give me a good enough reason, it’s something that I will stand behind, definitely.” The Herald