How did a story that started so well have such a tragic ending – Micho’s Chipolopolo stint
On Saturday afternoon, news broke out that the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) had part ways with Chipolopolo Boys head coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic following a string of poor results.
According to a statement by FAZ Communications manager Sydney Mungala availed to the ZamFoot Crew, the two parties reached a mutual agreement after a meeting at the Football house.
“The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) wishes to announce to its members and stakeholders that it has mutually separated with the senior Men’s National Team Head Coach Milutin ‘Michó’ Sredojevic.
Both parties agreed to mutually separate after a meeting held this morning at Football House.”
But how did a marriage that started with so much promise reach here and come to an abrupt divorce?
When the Serbian was finally confirmed as Chipolopolo Boys gaffer back in February 2020 there was a sigh of relief among fans and a lot were hopeful, a new day had come for the National team.
Micho was not FAZ’s first choice, Former City of Lusaka boss Vaselin Jelušic was primed to take over but the Government refused to grant him a work permit.
“Let’s have value for money. Whatever money we want to spend as Government we should have value for it, We will not consent to that, Am sorry If FAZ has gone ahead am sorry, It’s Government that issues work permits. They should be ready to give him a work permit,” The then Sports Minister Emmanuel Mulenga said.
But after about three months of back and forth between the Ministry and Football house, Micho was appointed and finally unveiled on 3rd February.
Apart from Sredojevic being the Chipolopolo fans’ preferred choice when his name leaked as the next Chipolopolo Boys weeks before the announcement, he had come with a tremendous success rate on the continent since his first arrival as a budding coach in 2001.
Before his stint as Chipolopolo Boys head coach, Micho won five championships in Uganda, eight in Ethiopia, and one title each in Tanzania, Sudan, and Egypt, which adds up to 16.
His tenure as Uganda head coach was also a big success as Uganda attained its best-ever position on the FIFA rankings, 62nd out of the 209 FIFA Member Associations in January 2016.
Micho also guided Uganda after a 38-year-old jinx to qualify for the biggest continental football fiesta – the 2017 African Cup of Nations where they only managed a point as they held Mali to a 1-1 draw.
With such a rich CV a lot was expected from the Serbian Wolf and since he took over on February 3, 2020, Micho was in charge of the Chipolopolo in the AFCON qualifiers, CHAN, and Cosafa Cup Qualifiers.
During his tenure, Zambia failed to qualify for the 2021 AFCON tournament but to be fair to him he only had four games with Aggrey Chiyangi having presided and lost the first two games, a quarter-final CHAN exit, and the final nail in the coffin was the Cosafa Cup in South Africa where Zambia lost to minnows Lesotho and eSwatini to fail to get out of the group despite being defending Champions.
ALL TALK, LITTLE OR NO ACTION
From day one Micho sold the football ‘crazy’ Zambians a dream of success but it was mostly all talk and little action.
“Wherever I have been I have been successful and I have come here to succeed and not fail. The players are hungry for success and that will drive us. I can assure you as an optimist that we are on a performance-based road,” Micho said.
“I don’t want to talk too much but let the work do the talking and the performances of Chipolopolo bring smiles on the faces of Zambia people. we are living in very tough times so we want to be soul healers because we know that the people keep Chipolopolo deep in their hearts. We want to make them happy and proud.”
“This confidence that Government and FAZ have shown in me the only way to pay it back is by achieving results that we all will be proud of,” he added.
But after over 20 games in charge, the only thing he had to show for his promises was a poor record.
“As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” is an aphorism that appears in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible — Proverbs 26:11.
In October last year, Micho explained why he had dropped the skipper Kabaso Chongo from the team and seemed to insinuate that the TP Mazembe man was partly responsible for Zambia’s porous defense.
“I look at how the player behaves in camp, interacts and accommodates other players especially junior players and his contribution to his club as a professional player of which, Kabaso Chongo failed the test,” Micho said during the Robert Marawa talk show.
But five months later, He recalled Kabaso for the Algeria AFCON qualifier and heaped praise him on despite his error that led to Algeria’s third goal and seemed to take away the momentum the Chipolopolo had after coming from two goals down to level 2 – 2.
“Kabaso Chongo had a top-class game, except for that mistake for the third goal, and we know there was no cover for him,” Micho told the ZamFoot Crew in a post-match interview.
The match was Kabaso Chongo’s first competitive match under Micho. He was expelled from the Chipolopolo camp after the friendly against Kenya in October 2020. He consequently missed the two Africa Cup qualifiers against Botswana before he made a return for the Algeria game.
At the start of his tenure, Micho seemed to not have faith in 2012 AFCON winner Kennedy Mweene and started to groom, Sebastian Mwange, Mwenya Chibwe, Allan Chibwe, Lameck Siame among others to take over but after some mistakes and pressure from the fans, he recalled Mweene for the just-ended COSAFA Cup which made him look undecided.
Talking of being undecided, He made so many call-ups during his one-year plus stay and could not come up with a clear starting lineup. He would start with a player in one position and then dump them after some time and switch to another affecting team cohesion and jellying.
PLAYERS ALSO PLAYED A PART
In as much as Micho had his faults, the players did not help matters, from schoolboy mistakes at the back to missing sitters and an open goal.
Several goals the Copper Bullets conceded during his tenure were very avoidable and can not be blamed on him alone but also the players.
When we rewind to just a few days ago at the ended COSAFA Cup tournament, The strikers missed chances that they usually burry at their clubs. Whether he had lost the dressing room or not is not clear but what’s certain is that the players did not help him to salvage his situation.
According to a famous quote by author, Neale Donald Walsch: Do not wonder why things are “taking so long.” Everything is rolling out exactly as it needs to, using not a minute more than Perfection requires. Rest easy and be at peace. Life is working its magic even as you take your very next breath.
Maybe this was the way it was meant to be for both Micho and Chipolopolo, who knows maybe the best lies ahead for both, all we say now is ‘All the best coach Micho in your future endeavors, and thank you for your services rendered to this nation.”
For Chipolopolo, The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) is set to name a new coach shortly to take over with 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifiers less than two months away it is a matter of some urgency.
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