Rebuilding the reds one step at a time
When it comes to coaching in the lower leagues, few can match Bakanuki Murphy Maseko’s experience.
The 51-year-old’s career has taken him across five regions and countless promotions.
From the highest league in the land right down to the fourth tier, Maseko has seen it all.
Now in the hot seat at Tafic, the proud Francistowner is desperate to restore his hometown club to former glories – first though, he has to ensure they survive….
Before we talk Tafic, please tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m originally from Jackalas No 1 but I grew up in Francistown, Kgaphamadi.
I’m a father of four and a deep lover of football.
As a proud Francistowner, coaching Tafic is a dream come true!
I understand you’ve been coaching for close to 25 years?
I used to play as a goalkeeper for a local team in Francistown called Ukhamba.
We were in the third division when I was forced into early retirement due to injury.
However, some of my teammates were impressed with my leadership qualities and convinced me to stay on as part of the coaching staff.
By 1998 I was the head coach and within two years we were promoted to the second division.
In 2003 I went north to Kasane for work.
I took charge of Chobe United and, under my tutelage, we won the promotional play-offs, becoming the first team in Kasane to make it into the First Division North.
We finished in the top four that season  and also reached the last 16 of the Coca-Cola Cup, where we narrowly lost 1-0 to BDF XI.
We were building something special but at that point I was transferred back to Francistown for work – I was employed as a Debt Collector at Furnmart.
I eventually left the job in 2015 to concentrate solely on football.
Free from the shackles of a day-time job, you got Black Forest promoted to the Botswana Premier League (BPL) almost immediately?
I had initially won promotion with them to the First Division in 2012 but left for Chobe again soon after.
The Chairman later asked me to come back as he had seen I could get the best out of the boys and believed I could take them all the way.
I returned and managed to guide us to the 2015/16 championship and automatic promotion to the BPL.
And yet your reward was to be fired because you lacked the relevant qualifications to coach in the top flight. That must have hurt?
It was painful. I thought the management would at least rope me in so I could learn from whoever took over but unfortunately they dismissed me. By then I only had a preliminary Premier Skills certificate and to be a head coach in the BPL you need a CAF ‘C’ Licence. I obtained that towards the end of 2016 and am currently doing my B Licence.
And now you find yourself at Tafic, a sleeping giant that sits second bottom of the First Division North with just one win all season as the league reaches its halfway point.
You’ve been in charge for four games now, what problem areas did you identify when you took over?
I watched the 4-0 defeat to Eleven Angels before taking charge and all four aspects of football were missing: technical, tactical, physical conditioning and psychological.
Physically some of the players looked fatigued, probably because of these December tournaments that happen around the country.
Technically, it’s a lot of young boys who have never passed through development structures.
The technical team saw that these boys can play, they are good, but the tactical aspect, understanding the philosophy of Tafic, off-the-ball movement etc, was lacking.
We’re working hard to rectify this.
Indeed, last time we spoke, after the 1-1 draw with Calendar Stars a couple of weeks ago, you said the players were 65-70 percent to where you wanted them to be in terms of adapting to your philosophy. Where does that number stand now?
Roughly 80. It’s only finishing that’s letting us down because from the back going forward and in our build-up play we are okay.
We are missing a lot of chances! Even in the recent 3-0 loss to Santa Green, we created several opportunities in the first-half but failed to convert.
Also, our physical trainer is excellent, his sessions with the lads have really improved their fitness.
The players’ speed, strength and endurance is improving every week.
And what exactly is your footballing philosophy?
Quick one-two’s, possession football, combination play and penetrating passes, that’s my philosophy.
Basically the ‘u ndipe ndi kupe’ brand of football the Tafic teams of old were famous for!
You are now nine points off the play-off position, is promotion still a realistic ambition?
Right now my primary target is to avoid relegation.
From there, we’ll see what happens. If we can string a few wins together and get out of the bottom two, that’s when we can look at the table again, reassess and see where others are and if we can start competing.
That’s why we don’t want to lose, it’s better to get a point.
These points are helping us, at least now we have jumped one team [Maun United Terriers] because of the draws we’ve collected.
If the games are tough, we must at least get a point; that’s how you avoid relegation!
But for a team like Tafic, is that good enough?
Of course the fans want and expect more.
But what I’ve realised in Botswana is that when a team drops down a division, we want them back as quickly as possible.
We don’t have plans and long-term strategies in place.
When a team relegates and they lose their best players, we should sit down as management and supporters and come-up with a two-year plan at least.
They should say, this season we are building, the next season we are competing.
You cannot build and compete at the same time, it’s a cauldron of pressure!
Also, we have seven new first-teamers in the squad.
They hardly had any pre-season to gel and get used to playing with one another.
It takes time for them to adapt.
In the past, Tafic have been notorious for behind-the-scenes problems, with management often divided into factions and regularly falling out. Is this something you’ve experienced?
Yeah I’ve heard it’s there but as a coach I don’t like to get too involved in those issues.
My job is to focus on the players, to help nurture their talent and protect them where possible.
I try not to interfere in such.
How would you describe your reception from the fans?
The majority of the fans I’m just okay with them because they know me, they’ve been following my career, they know I grew up here.
Most are giving us support but some will always fight you and think they know better – that’s football!
They’re Tafic fans at the end of the day and are entitled to their opinion, when I ensure we avoid relegation, that’s when they can have more trust in me.
What’s the hardest thing about being a coach in the lower leagues?
The toughest is coaching in the second division because there’s a lot of pressure.
It’s very difficult to get promoted.
First you have to win the league in your region, then you go for the play-offs with four of five others team.
If you fail there, you go right back to where you started!
I’ve coached in five regions in Botswana, from the third division through to the Premier League as an assistant coach with GNT in 2008.
So I know what I’m talking about, I don’t think there’s any other coach that has done that.
How would you rate the standard of First Division football in Botswana and is there a difference between north and south?
The standard is high.
I know the south better having coached there for longer.
There’s a lot of former Premier League players that drop down to help out teams in that division.
There’s a lot of possession and power play that side, whereas in the north there’s a lot of talent, aggression and passion.
But the standard of football is just the same.
How much analysis goes into a match day?
It’s very important.
The guy who came on board as my assistant coach, Andrew Taolo, is brilliant at this.
He joined from Eleven Angels, has been in Europe before and has a UEFA Level 2 licence.
He’s the one who has been giving me feedback on our opponents, he has lots of notes and information on all the teams and how they like to play.
There’s perceived to be a big drinking culture amongst a lot of the players in the local leagues, is this something you’ve encountered at Tafic?
I haven’t seen it much because after training and the games I head straight back to Chadibe, I’m never in town!
Going forward, what are your hopes for the club?
Once relegation has been avoided I want to revive the youth structures.
I’ve done a course in FIFA Futsal, which teaches technique, control and scoring.
Other countries develop young kids with this and I want to implement it at Tafic.
I was the coordinator of this in the Chobe region and we produced a lot of good players.
Also, we need to build a better relationship with the senior schools in the area, from Nata to Tonota and of course Francistown.
We should be going into these schools and conducting coaching clinics, there’s so much talent there and we need to capatilise on it.
What message do you have for the fans?
To be patient.
We know they’re not used to what’s happened but they should calm down.
When you’re having a team like Tafic with a lot of young boys, 17 and 18- year olds, if you shout a lot you are putting them under immense pressure.
They must give the players courage, even when they’re not doing well, the fans are the ones we can make the difference and be our 12th man.
During the game, they must be with the boys, we need them!
Away from football, how do you relax?
I read a lot, any book that I come across and newspapers, The Voice of course!
Even though it’s football related, I also like to watch a lot of lower league regional games because that’s where you discover talent and find players.
Actually, scouting for players is one of my strongest points!
Over the course of a season, I identify between 15 to 20 players then invite them to come for pre-season trials, that’s how I like to do it!
And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
We don’t have a game this week so I’ll be concentrating on the Orange FA Cup.
I do analysis work for the BFA, helping pick the man of the match so I’ll probably be covering one of the games.