This week we would like to weigh in on the debate around the biggest sports discipline in the country and how our government together with the soccer governing body plan to spend US$25, 000 per month (approximately K310, 000) on a “high-quality” expatriate or foreign coach. This amount sounds extremely exorbitant to an ordinary person who doesn’t understand the magnitude of business involved in football across the globe, but it is sweet music to every football fan’s soul because it suggests good things to come, or does it?

According to FAZ, the government will contribute $10, 000 (approximately K125,000) while the country’s football mother body has sourced $15, 000 (approximately K187, 000) towards the hiring of the new coach. The sad news, however, is that this development doesn’t come close to suggesting that Chipolopolo will now attract the caliber of million-dollar earners like Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola. Soccer pundits will tell you those names are way out of that bracket.

This means FAZ will go on the market to hunt for an average coach; the likes of Alain Giresse, Didier Desambre, Gordon Igesund, Gavin Hunt, Pitso Mosimane, who if hired, will pocket $300, 000 annually (approximately K3.7 million). Now, let’s quantify this amount in the manner best understood by our readers who follow politics much closely.

According to Statutory Instrument No. 62 of 2018, the annual salary of the Zambian Republican President, in this case Dr Edgar Lungu, is pegged at K617, 252, which breaks down to K51, 437 per month. In essence, the Zambian coach will be paid about six times better than our Head of State. Like we said, football is one of the most rewarding enterprises in the world and this ‘disparity’ is nothing to question really. But let’s look at how the so called foreign coaches have been reaping this money with very little to show for it, at the expense of the hardworking local experts.

The last time a Chipolopolo coach was paid the amount in the region of US$25, 000 was when President Rupiah Banda mobilised the corporate world to foot the bill with First Quantum Minerals (FQM) and Zambian Breweries being among the major sponsors. Yes, FAZ managed to bring Dario Bonetti who qualified the national team to the 2012 Africa Cup before Frenchman, Herve Renard, went to finish the job in Gabon by bringing the elusive trophy.

But can we entirely credit that feat to Bonetti and Renard alone? Some people may hurriedly say “yes” without giving due consideration to the roles played by local coaches like George Lwandamina (as Under-20 trainer), Peter Kaumba (as Under-23 trainer) and Kalusha Bwalya (as national team coach) towards that achievement.

Yes, we paid the foreigners handsomely, and they brought us that 2012 glory, but where are they today? Both Renard and Bonetti have moved on in search of much greener pastures, while our local contributors have stayed home, wallowing in ingratitude from the government and FAZ. What then, other than the 2012 feat, can be the justification for engaging an “expatriate coach” at the expense of developing our local men? Those with good memories will remember that even when Ian Porterfield and later Roald Poulsen were engaged post the 1993 Gabon Air Crash, there was a whole team of local coaches that assembled an even more resilient Chipolopolo side that went on to play the final of the 1994 Africa Cup, narrowly losing 2-1 to Nigeria. It took a new local technical bench to identify new talent from across the country, a task no foreign coach would have achieved on their own.

So this announcement of a US$25, 000 pay cheque for an expatriate coach should be understood in the context that even if we were to raise enough money to hire Mourinho or Guardiola, there is no guarantee that they can make our Chipolopolo win the 2021 Africa Cup or let alone qualify us to the 2022 Qatar World Cup, especially without the involvement of local coaching talent.

Just to be clear, this ‘little’ US$25, 000 is not even enough to bring back the much loved Herve Renard who is now fetching in excess of US$50, 000 (approximately K623, 000) a month, thanks to his rich CV which he significantly shaped from Zambia to give him marketable echelons of African football.

So, why should we go out there and folk out so much money to build another curriculum vitae (CV) for someone who will not be with us two to three years later? Why not build the CV of the men we keep falling back on? Would we rather unceremoniously drop Aggrey Chiyangi if he speaks his mind at a press conference, yet fall back on him to win us the COSAFA?

We are asking these questions because we find it nonsensical to pay a fortune to foreign experts who, when they succeed they move on to the next country that can pay better, and if they fail you fire them anyway for not meeting their targets. There is no better way of explaining this desire to pay foreigners more than you are willing to pay your own – it’s an inferiority complex.

By the way, the two countries that will be playing in this Friday’s Africa Cup finals are actually coached by local coaches. FAZ and government must find out how Senegal have done it with Aliou Cisse (Collins Mbesuma’s former club-mate at Portsmouth) or why Algeria have been successful with local coach Djamel Belmadi who was appointed to the position only a year ago.

Let FAZ and government find out how much these two coaches are being paid by their respective countries compared to the masese which Zambia pays our local coaches here. In fact, they don’t even pay them, they make them train the national team on nkongole but expect them to produce results. This is a shame!

To be continued…