Senong: I encourage African clubs to have faith in young coaches

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The highly-rated coach Thabo Senong headed to the small Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho after a five-year successful spell in charge of the South African National Under-20 team also known as Amajita

Senong, enjoyed success in South Africa as the young tactician led the SA U20 side to back-to-back FIFA U20 World Cup tournaments in 2017 and 2019 and also worked as the Bafana Bafana assistant coach under former coaches Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba and Stuart Baxter.

The Soweto-born mentor went on to clinch the COSAFA Cup with Amajita on two occasions, back in 2017 and defended his title in 2018.

In an interview with FARPost, the respected coach revealed how he landed the Lesotho coaching job and also urged African clubs and national teams to have faith in young coaches.

The 39-year-old mentor is of the opinion that clubs and national teams on the African continent are ‘very comfortable with hiring older coaches.’

“Appointing younger coaches in Africa it is still a challenge, we don’t really judge coaches based on their knowledge and talents and potential… Lesotho have very progressive leaders,” Senong told FARPost.

“I would love to encourage clubs and national teams in the continent to have faith in young coaches, up and coming coaches but also the players need to change their mindsets in their response and in their co-operation to younger coaches.

“The same respect that is offered to the older coaches, I believe it should be offered to younger coaches so, in Africa it is still a challenge for young coaches to manage the players, to manage the politicians, the administrators but when you go to Europe you look at Pep Guardiola, Pep was given an opportunity at Barcelona at the age of 37, you look at Julian Nagelsmann, he is doing an excellent job (at RB Leipzig),” added Senong.

However, Senong says that young coaches need to understand and be aware of the big responsibilities that comes with being a manager of a professional club.

“I am not only representing myself, I am also representing the current generation of young coaches and also the up and coming generation in terms of work ethic, application in leadership because if I get it wrong, I am minimising opportunities for the rest that will come after me.

“So, in a way we are the ambassadors of young coaches in the continent. We need to convince the leaders that young coaches are ready also to offer something, it is the same application we do with players,” – Senong. 

According to Senong, to be a successful coach, you need to be what he calls, “a lifelong student of the beautiful game.” In 2018, Senong obtained a Master’s Coaching Diploma at the Johan Cruyff Institute in Amsterdam, Netherlands to add to his many coaching qualifications.

A couple of months into the job as Likoena head coach, Senong says it has been a great ride so far and an honour.

“I joined last year September, the reception has been very warm, Basotho are very welcoming people, very humble and I was accepted in the dressing room which is important because obviously my job is to build connection with players and all the stakeholders, so is been a good experience so far, the seventh month and I must say I have learned a lot about football here in Lesotho.

“Just immediately after the World Cup, I was released by SAFA end of June [2019], so during that period I had planned a sabbatical period,” – Senong. 
“It was important for me to relax a little bit, spend six months, reflecting, upgrade my skills because I also needed a break as I had just lost my mother while we were still in Poland,” Senong continued.

“So, I got an opportunity to travel to Ghana for two weeks, that was in July, just to assist the coaches in Ghana with some talent identification and while I was in Ghana, that’s when I was engaged by the Lesotho Football Association (LFA) about my interest in coming to serve in the senior national team, head coaching position.

“I just felt that this is a big challenge, but it could also be a big progression for my coaching pathway,” concluded the Soweto coach.

DID YOU KNOW? 

The former Amajita coach completed his Safa Level One Coaching Certificate in 2004.

RELATED STORYStreet football can still be used to produce talent  Senong

By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi 

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