CAPS UNITED coach Lloyd Chitembwe comes across as too diplomatic a man to be a disciple of Jose Mourinho, the often brash Manchester United manager.
But Chitembwe is one.
“Jose is one guy that inspires me,” revealed the Makepekepe coach as his team prepared to face TP Mazembe in a US$550 000 Caf Champions League match at the National Sports Stadium in Harare this afternoon.
“I have followed his career, read a lot about his rise and management style and have watched hundreds of his matches. And these days following up on him is much easier because Jose is at Manchester United, the team I support in the English Premiership.”
Qualification into the Caf Champions’ League group stage brings with it a guaranteed minimum purse of over half-a-million Benjamin Franklins.
The first leg of this first round duel between Caps and TP Mazembe ended 1-1 in Lubumbashi seven days ago with Abbas Amidu’s first-minute opener for the Zimbabwean champions cancelled out by Rainford Kalaba’s simple tap-in eight minutes later.
Makepekepe have never played a bigger game and such high a stakes encounter come with loads of pressure. That pressure was palpable as the Green Machine returned to training on Tuesday.
And Chitembwe – who is fast maturing into an astute tactician – borrowed a leaf from the gospel according to Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho is a master of diffusing pressure, always seeking to stand by his players and imbue them with confidence.
“Of course, many people say we cannot be friends with the players. I say exactly the opposite. If you are not friends with the players you do not reach the maximum potential of that group,” Mourinho was once quoted as saying.
At the National Sports Stadium on Tuesday, Chitembwe took the friendly route, asking Ronald Pfumbidzai what he got up to when the rest of his teammates flew out to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Caps United gaffer asked the type of silly questions that Bill Cosby used to ask on the popular programme “Kids Say the Darndest Things” to several of his players.
The effect was that players – who had reported back for duty all tense and expecting the tough workout they were promised aboard their chartered flight back from Lubumbashi – chuckled and eased up a bit.
The workout was hard alright, but the banter made it enjoyable.
“Just like Mourinho I seek to understand my players, one by one,” added Chitembwe. “You see a player cannot play beyond his maximum level, it’s impossible. Everyone has his limit and you cannot ask him to do what he cannot do.”
Another Mourinho trait in Chitembwe is the different strokes for different folks – or teams in this case – approach.
“People ask me what is your model of play? I say, ‘Model of what? Model of play against who? When? With which players? Model of play what?’
“For me the model of play is the principles I establish with my team as priority principles which give us a certain DNA,” Mourinho told pundit Gary Neville back in 2014.
At Caps United each opponent and each game are treated differently and it is because of such an approach that skipper Moses Muchenje remains unsure about retaining his place in the team despite playing a blinder in Lubumbashi.
“It’s all about what the coaches want for that game, the tactics and the game plan. Maybe I will play against Mazembe in the return; maybe I will not play…it’s all about what is good for the team,” said Muchenje after the first leg.
Chitembwe’s approach has taken Makepekepe thus far. Surely it can take them further.