When news first came through over two weeks ago that celebrated coach George ‘Best’ Nsimbe was joining relegation-threatened Express, many feared for Shafiq Bisaso’s job.
He says it was never his intention. Kenyan coach Michael ‘Nam’ Ouma insists he was just in Uganda pursuing youth football prospects when he woke up Vipers boss last December.
“Sometimes it’s inexplicable, “said the steadfast, yet calm Ouma, “Sometimes it’s just God. Most times. I had been trying to see a friend here to connect me to the executive director of Vipers (Lawrence Mulindwa) to see how I can tap into his club for perhaps a youth exchange program.
“I did not know he had a crisis in the team. We finally connected and we talked deep about football. He was so interested in me.
Had the CV, and number
“This was even before Vipers played Constantine in Caf. He asked for my CV to look at briefly and good enough I had it on my phone.
“He still had the coach (Mexican Javier Martinez Espinoza) before they played that Caf match against Constantine. My interest was in the youth.” Anyone who knows Mulindwa, the good Doctor was already planning for life after Espinoza, who had been struggling to align his beliefs with his players.
“He asked for my availability if we were to implement the project I had proposed and then we parted ways,” added Ouma, 51.
It was just a matter of time. Come Constantine and the Algerians bundled Vipers out of the Caf Champions League, and with it Espinoza.
Few know Mulindwa’s criterion of employing coaches, most of whom start appearing on google search after taking over the job. But one thing for sure is that his helpers have hardly got their attempts right. And yet the Kitende strong man had a situation on his hand. Out of Champions League but Tunisia’s Sfaxien lay in wait in the Confederation Cup playoffs, and the domestic season had a whole second round to go. He already had Ouma’s CV. And phone number. “He called me and asked me to head the team in interim as the club waits for another permanent coach. But as that happens, anything can happen.
“What he asked of me was to bring that mutual understanding between the technical bench and players and we are trying our best.
“By the time I came, we were not scoring goals, even creating chances. But now we are, just working on finishing more of the chances we are creating.”
Yet Ouma, an English FA level 2 coach, Uefa B diploma holder from Ireland, a holder of an international diploma from the University of Sports in Hungary and Caf B football tutor finds an age-old complication at Vipers.
By virtual of his papers, he comes and heads a technical team boasting of the club’s most successful coach in Edward Golola, the latter having won Vipers three league titles, the most recent as assistant coach.
Every time Golola has been replaced by a foreigner as head coach, the home boy has remained calm, only waiting for them to crack and he regains his job with a smiley look of, “Do I say?” But both Ouma and Golola say they hold each other with great respect and are already enjoying working together.
“You can see since we took over,” said Golola, “We are enjoying it and learning from each other. Coach Nam (Ouma) brings his ideas and I bring mine and we implement.”
Ouma agrees and believes ones needs an old broom if they are to pull anything great off. “If you are new, you need someone who understands things,” he explained, “Coach Edward has helped me a lot on how to link with players and management. “I know the things I would like to impart on the team; I need analysis, sound fitness… So we share knowledge. I believe it will work, and it is working.”
The Mulindwa shadow
But there is another big conundrum. While Mulindwa, like all successful people, holds closest to his heart his club, he often leaves it in a complicated place especially when that love overshadows the coaches and any technical decisions.
This writer succinctly put it to Ouma: ‘There has been talk that the president (Mulindwa) sometimes influences who plays and who doesn’t. How true, and if true, what are you going to do about it?’
Ouma, in between one of the goal areas at St Mary’s Stadium amidst a scorching midday sun for this interview, collected himself calmly, arms folded on his chest, and responded: “The president is really into football,” he said.
“He is in touch with us 24 hours. He looks and could see where the problem is. He could see a good kid and ask, can you please help bring this kid up well? “But he doesn’t tell me who to play in a match. Al I can say is that he cares, he is inspiring but he doesn’t give me and the technical bench orders.”
At the time of this interview, Ouma had overseen the two Caf ties that saw them ejected by Sfaxien, won a Uganda Cup tie, won one domestic league match and drawn twice, leaving the defending champions, Vipers, six points behind KCCA.
But their 1-0 victory over Kirinya-Jinja last week saw them claw it back to just three points within KCCA with 14 matches to go.
“KCCA are still ahead but we still have games to play. Anyone of us can win it. However, although we want to defend the league, I’m looking beyond it. I’m working on integrating a youth system into the senior team. That is what I’m focused on during my time here.”
Ouma boasts of experience at this level having coached at Kenya Premier League sides (KPL) Karuturi (now Vegpro) and Posta Rangers.
He also has good youth football know how having coached Kenya’s U-17, as well as being attached in South Africa two years ago.
Yet, it should not be lost on us that every time Mulindwa has hired a foreign coach, he has done so with hope of doing well on the continent. Should he be confirmed permanently, that is one other big challenge Ouma will have to confront.
“We shall need a detailed program and planning in place,” Ouma explained what needs to change if Vipers are to take a step better on the continent, “We need to look at clubs successful at that level and see what they are doing.
“We need adequate preparation and acclimatization, set up funds to enable us test ourselves against big teams, beef up our technical bench, balance our nutrition and gym program, of course beef the squad with quality players.
“Once we as the technical team come up with the right program then we even prevent any interference from bosses because you can always draw them back to the program and review. If you have no program, you invite what you are calling interference.” Not a bad forecast.
OUMA AT A GLANCE
Name: Michael Nam Ouma
Qualifications: English FA level 2, Uefa B diploma holder from Ireland, international diploma from the University of Sports in Hungary, Caf B licence, Brazilian coaching methodology, Sao Paulo
Coaching career: Finley, Posta Rangers, Karuturi Sports, Kenya U17, Youth Placement in South Africa,
Current club: Vipers
Football background: Ouma was raised in a football environment at Bata Bullets FC in Limuru, Kenya.
*His father was one of the founders of the club. It’s here he developed interest in the game.