Immediately following the departure of Turkish born gaffer Hassan Octay, Township Rollers FC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bennett Mamelodi made a bold prediction. “The name of the next coach at Rollers will shock a few people. He will polarise opinions,” he declared.
A few days later, Rollers announced the arrival of a relatively unknown Romain Folz as the new man to take the reins. Along with his agemate and assistant Oarabile ‘Wilshere’ Seabo, who is 30-years-old, the 31-year-old Bordeaux born gaffer becomes part of what will be a very young technical team at the helm of Botswana’s most successful and perhaps biggest football brand.
As Mamelodi had predicted, the announcement of Folz’s arrival has not only polarised opinion but has also been a shock and brought condescension from some quarters. Not least because of the youthfulness of the new coach, but also because of his pointed ‘lack of experience’ for a foreign coach.
To be precise, the condescension has been so much that some, borrowing from the derisory term once used by former Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane to describe some foreign coaches in South Africa’s elite league, have gone as far as saying Rollers may have brought ‘yet another plumber or fisherman.’
Unlike the coaches who led Rollers before, those not convinced the young coach is good enough point to his cv as not illustrious enough for a team so ambitious. Instead of just an ability to speak six languages, they want a six-trophy laden cv, they say.
Not that the six-trophy laden cv would convince them either way. Rollers has seen a good turnout of foreign coaches, some of whom have not lasted beyond a season. Hassan Oktay, the recent coach to jump off ‘the Blue Train,’ as Rollers is affectionately called at times, had a very rich resume. Despite that and losing only two games in his nine outings at the helm, Oktay did not escape being labelled clueless.
For Mamelodi and his boss Jagdish Shah however, these derisory terms will just fly off their faces. They long expected that. For them, their pursuit of the young Folz, whom they cajoled to leave his job as the assistant coach and head of performance analysis for the Mauritania national team, was something in line with their dream for Rollers.
“This is part of our Rollers project,” Mamelodi says. “Our dream is to make Rollers a big brand across Africa. This is the dream and vision we sold Folz when we prized him away from the Mauritania national team.”
Whatever they said was seemingly so interesting to the young French gaffer as he not only agreed to leave a team enroute to playing in the Africa Cup of Nations, but also ‘allegedly agreed to take a pay cut to join the Rollers project.’
The biggest concern however for now is whether someone so young can withstand the pressure that comes with coaching the most successful football team in Botswana. As critics point out, ‘Rollers is a big brand which cannot be left in the hands of someone so wet behind the ears.’ They predict that Folz may not last beyond a season at Rollers as he would be expected to bring results and glory.
Their predictions are compounded by the belief that the young Folz is a journeyman coach who always walks away from teams. According to reports in Ghana, the young coach walked out of his job at AshantiGold just a month into his job after ‘disagreements with the top hierarchy of the club.’ he had before then coached another Ghanaian team Bechem Chelsea where he lasted a mere six months. And given the recent coach turnover at Rollers, it is no little wonder that many do not see him stay long if the environment is not conducive enough for him.
The Rollers hierarchy however holds a different opinion. They are adamant that a new conducive environment will be created for the ‘kiddies’ technical team of Folz and Seabo to flourish. In fact, the job has seemingly begun with Leutlwetse Tshireletso being moved away from his job as an assistant coach to take the role of a “scout.”
In fact, the Rollers CEO goes on to add that there will be no false hopes or high expectations on the youthful technical team to produce instant results. He says the coach and his team will be given a chance to build the team and the hierarchy will not hesitate to back them to the hilt. With Rollers indicating in its introductory message of the coach that ‘further changes in the Technical Team shall be considered on an ongoing basis and in due course,’ indications are that the team is even ready to move out some of its long serving coaching staff members.
“This is a long-term project and we will be patient. Naysayers will only appreciate what we are doing when the project comes to fruition. The coach is here to stay and we will help him achieve what we set out to achieve,” Mamelodi says.