Of Neymar, Keziron and the absence of iron fists

Sunday February 9 2020

Keziron Kizito of KCCA had a game to remember

Keziron Kizito of KCCA had a game to remember against Maroons in mid-week. PHOTO BY GEORGE KATONGOLE 

By Robert Madoi

The complexities of managing a football team are often told through the challenges and triumphs of individuals and not the infrastructure those people represent. Take the case of Neymar. The Brazilian debuted to immediate acclaim at Paris Saint-Germain, scoring an impressive 28 goals in 30 appearances.

Even while suffering a bumpy second season (thanks largely to injury problems), Neymar still rose above a manageable field of competition as a return of 23 goals across 28 matches attests.
Goals, though, should not the architecture through which the twinkle-toed Brazilian is judged.
Such is his electric presence in the box that he has managed an eye-popping 307 career goals in, wait for it, 486 matches. While Neymar has benefited greatly from the glamorous lure of his red-hot scoring streak, his character — which has yielded the odd joyful take down — has always threatened to bring his relationship with coaches to what is sure to be a devastating conclusion.

His recent 28th birthday topped off with a lavish, all-white bash in a Parisian club has sent the global sports media into overdrive. It has also forced Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel to go on the defensive, insisting that his decision not to reprimand Neymar is chiefly because things cannot be seen “in black and white.”

The talk of grey areas has undoubtedly knocked points off the German coach whose familiar pace and confidence previously served him well. It also serves to show a bigger uncomfortable truth, which is: the modern day coach no longer hits the highs that made them respected — even feared — in years gone by.

Of course, the stated power made the coaches revered and reviled in equal measure, but, more pointedly, it brought about a semblance of order. The absence of this classic iron fist in a velvet glove has accelerated the growth of player power.

Such is the toxicity of player power that coaches are having to tone down in a bid not to lose the dressing room. Iron-fisted coaches can be counted off the fingers of one hand. Thankfully, Ugandan football can lay claim to having one such coach.

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When Keziron Kizito played a delightful through ball that Erisa Sekisambu finished with aplomb, many a KCCA FC fan could quite easily have asked as to where the former has been.

This was during the Garbage Collectors’ 2-1 win over Maroons midweek. Kizito’s industry was no doubt sorely missed during a tough period in which KCCA’s title defence looked like it was coming apart at the seams. The midfielder was absent from KCCA’s match day squads not because he was injured or hopelessly out of form.

No. It was simply because he was found to be on the wrong side of the law. Mutebi could have chosen to look the other way or even make a vague reference to grey areas especially since player licensing pitfalls had constricted his selection pool.

He did not. Instead the KCCA FC coach chose to crack the whip, suspending not just Kizito but also another errant player (Simon Serunkuma). This might have shorn his side of attacking options and forced him to have a bench laden with defenders, but it also sent out a clear message. KCCA players now know that actions have consequences no matter your stature.
Can the same be said of those in the French capital? Your guess is as good as mine.

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