The East African Standard interviewed Kogalo officials and players to find out how current coach Dylan Kerr compares to Ze Maria.
Courtesy of the Standard
The difference plays out in run up to league victory at K’Ogalo
The last three coaches to win league titles at Gor Mahia, if you include Dylan Kerr, have one common denominator. Forget fact that they’re all British.
Bobby Williamson, Frank Nuttall and Dylan Kerr all came into the club midstream of the seasons and ended up winning the league title in their first years. We all know coach Bobby’s 2013 was the most celebrated for he brought back tears of joy to a club whose fans had all but accepted to live with the bitter truth that their glory days were gone and finishing second, like they did in 2010, was an accomplishment.
When he replaced Bobby Williamson towards end of 2014, not many knew who exactly coach Frank Nuttall was save for the fact that he was Bobby’s chosen one. But a good coach is known by his results. His record in 2015 is out there for all to see.
José Marcelo Fereira, alias Zé Maria, came to K’Ogalo with the very pedigree of a coach — exactly what team manager Jolawi Obondo calls a text book coach.
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“Zé Maria is what people go to coaching school to study,” says Jolawi who has worked with well seven coaches at the club. “The man was a typical instructor. He had this big vision, a jumbo dream of sorts, which he wanted to impart to players.”
Only falling short of calling Zé Maria a mannequin in a coaching school lab, Jolawi Obondo describes the Brazilian as an astute student of European football schools. On contracts for example, Zé Maria knew in and out what was required of him by the club, did his bit and was often livid whenever he felt the club did not honour its end of the bargain.
“Zé Maria slept with his contract,” says Jolawi adding that “he was conscious of training requirements, timings and no player dared arrive late however indispensable that player thought he was.”
While many think strict adherence to the rule book is requisite for good workmanship, it may be the very ticket that sends one out of his job; it is what causes friction. Zedekiah Zico Otieno, who was Zé Maria’s assistant, shares in this: “Modern football allows for close observance to rules but not rigidity. If you’re too stiff, it may be your undoing.”
Zico, the only successful Brazilian at Gor Mahia, weighs in on the style of play employed by coach Zé Maria: “With Zé Maria we played three at the back because we needed more attacking options upfront. We scored goals then but we also conceded mainly from the flanks where we were exposed due to our style of play.”
Under Zé Maria’s three-man defence, Gor Mahia conceded 13 goals in 18 matches as compared to Dylan Kerr’s eight in similar number of outings.
Zé Maria did not last at the club. Nevertheless he charmed many with his ability to wear his boots and play with the boys at the same time he coached.
An introvert to many, but club Assistant Secretary General Ronald Ngala thinks otherwise. “Maybe language barrier also came into play,” asserts Ngala. Coming from Brazil, a Lusophone country, Zé Maria would pass for an introvert, his circle of friends predominantly being his assistants who spoke his language.
Then comes the very comical Dylan Kerr. This amiable former boss at Tanzanian giants Simba SC. His first task? Walk around the city and tweet every picture of it.
The Englishman arrived at Gor Mahia and immediately started bringing in changes. The first casualty was Zé Maria’s backline. Dylan didn’t believe three men could man a backline often marauded by physical athletes; Wycliffe Ochomo and the likes.
“Coach Dylan analysed the game,” states Zico. “Each system requires the right players to execute it. And most importantly you adopt a system according to your strengths and quality of opponent. That’s the reason coach Dylan in his wisdom chose to rotate systems.”
It is this flexibility in picking systems of play and players to field that is well pronounced in Dylan Kerr’s work ethics.
Team Manager Jolawi Obondo labels him a funny man. A sociable man. He gives a musical analogy to the difference between the Englishman and the Brazilian, “It is like listening to mellowly scripted Tukutendereza Yesu hymnals then the DJ suddenly plays hard rock. It is very difficult not to like Dylan. He’s lively. The kind of person you need to light up a party.”
Jolawi says: “I think it may be unfair to draw parallels against other coaches because Kerr has only overseen so many matches. We need to evaluate a coach from pre-season. And I think the break now offers him a great chance to build a team that can retain the trophy next year and compete favourably in Africa.”
Football is a result-oriented sport and Kerr has won the league on his first attempt, only rivaling Bobby Williamson, Frank Nuttall, the great Len Julians and Paul Odhiambo— the first coach ever to win the league title at Gor Mahia in 1968.
For the very conservative Gor Mahia fan, to whom winning the league title makes no sense if the club cannot beat AFC Leopards, Zé Maria has an edge over the Englishman. Zé Maria had three chances at Mashemeji Derby and he delivered resounding victories; 2-0, 3-0 and 3-0. Kerr on his part, has only played once in this fixture and only managed a draw from a losing start — 1-1.
Further, there is some sweet and sour taste in K’Ogalo fans’ mouths to imagine that the club’s longest winning streak happened under Zé Maria in 2016 the same season they didn’t win a trophy. Gor Mahia went on a seven-match winning sprawl in the league between April and July 2016 and that result has not been rivalled — not even the glorious 2015 comes close.
If there’s one man who knows that there’s no second chance for first impressions, it is Kerr. He edged out Zé Maria when he won his first five league matches at the helm. In fact, Kerr had to wait until his 13th match to face his first defeat. Zé Maria was a bit extravagant with losing — he lost in his fourth match.
One has won the league, the other one did not. So as Gor Mahia coach Kerr deservedly picked up his medal yesterday he should have been proud of every piece of it because surely, he has played his part in taking Gor Mahia where it belongs; national dominance.