Bigger than the pond: Case of Robert N’gambi and Malawi coach Mtawali

Saturday lunch-hour kick off, Chelsea travel to Everton to fulfill yet another daunting English Premier League fixture. I am a ‘bona fide’ Chelsea fan and I have not made this a secret all along. But I am the first to accept that the ‘Blues’ have made one of their worst Premier League starts in their footballing history.Loose cannon

The defence has been letting in more goals than the strikers have scored! There are varied schools of thought as to what is attributable to this below-par start to the new season. Many fans think that the defence has become extremely porous and that there is an urgent need to beef it up with at least one new signing.

Manager José Mourinho has made matters worse. Except for the recent red card suspension, veteran centre-back and captain, John Terry, has not been given much game time as was the case last season and seasons before that.

His legs may be tired. Age might be catching up with him in football terms, but as they say, ‘experience is a good teacher’. May be some of the defensive lapses may have been avoided with the intimidating presence of John Terry in the field of play.

However, at the end of the day, it is José Mourinho’s discretion to choose who plays and who doesn’t. At the end of the day, he is solely responsible for whatever results follow. Maybe because of the discipline associated with top soccer leagues in the world, John Terry has not complained about being benched lately; at least not publicly.

Terry is a professional and mature footballer who knows the coach has the final say in terms of fielding of the players. He knows the important medicine to earn coaches’ trust is hard work, dedication and discipline. You cannot win the coach’s heart through intimidation.

Our own midfield maestro Robert ‘Baggio’ Ng’ambi should borrow a leaf from John Terry and other world class footballers who respect their coaches or what in Europe call ‘managers’.His conduct during the recent Malawi national football team encounter with Swaziland (Africa Cup qualifiers), left a lot to be desired.

He was left on the bench by coach Ernest ‘Wire’ Mtawali during the entire game. In retaliation, he said all sorts of bad things about the coach. Being a senior player, he should have been exemplary to the up and coming footballers that have been incorporated into the squad by respecting the Head Coach.

It is natural that sometimes when footballers become famous, they start creating an aura of invincibility around themselves and their talent. The temptation to start thinking they are bigger than their coaches, or even bigger than football becomes too much.

Oftentimes when a coach makes decisions they don’t agree with, it is taken badly with equally childish follow-up decisions on the part of the player.

This scenario has been captured in colourful details by the recent media tantrums by the South African-based Ng’ambi. I have known ‘Baggio’ as a quiet, talented and disciplined footballer since his heydays at Bullets. I wonder what made him rush to the media this time around to lament about the decision by the Flames’ coach Ernest ‘Wire’ Mtawali to drop some experienced and foreign-based players in favour of young locally-based players for the game between Malawi and Swaziland.

‘Baggio’ faulted the coach for using inexperienced players whom he considered very green and not particularly ripe for the big stage. He accused ‘Wire’ Mtawali of using insipid tactics and seriously hinted about snubbing Mtawali if called for national duty again. The game ended in a two-all draw.

What many of us know is that the coach may have opted to relegate Ng’ambi to the bench because the enterprising midfielder had been nursing a groin injury for some time now.

Football managers or coaches are often highly experienced individuals (or they would not have been hired in the first place). They know when to use a player and when not, sometimes they would not use a player not because he is not talented or has fallen over the edge, but because the style of play of that particular player does not tactically fit in the tactics of a particular game.

Sometimes players might think they are physically fit on the particular day, when actually they are not fit psychologically. Coaches know how to protect these players, not just protecting them from further injury, but to protect them from ‘themselves’.

Everyone knows that the Flames have been wondering in the wilderness for a long time. They know it has been a case of two steps forward and five steps backward.

The Flames need radical steps (whether on trial basis or not) to remove the jinx of perpetual underachievers. To do this we cannot keep doing the same things or to put it in football terms, we cannot keep using the same players. We need to try new players; new formulas; new tactics even if it means overhauling the whole team.

“I used to have a saying that when a player is at his peak, he feels as though he can climb Everest in his skippers.” – Sir Alex Fergusson

Feedback: [email protected] ; Twitter: @thomchiumia

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52 thoughts on “Bigger than the pond: Case of Robert N’gambi and Malawi coach Mtawali”

  1. Davie says:

    Experience is the best doctor.

  2. A Ntawali ayamba zopusa nawo zida sizimayesedwa kunkhondo ayi. Lero mwamuwona Ng’ambi chigoli chomwe wagoletsa???? Kodi simunamvepo za player power???????? A lot of coaches have lost their jobs cos of being in bad books with a section of players. Nanga to play a draw with Swaziland is that good enough? If you can’t collect maximum points from Swaziland where else can you get the points. Asamalire Ntawali coaching is another field you’re a hero today & a villain tomorrow people don’t care whether you were a world class player amufunse Maradona. Ng’ambi is the cream of the crop at the moment ndiye chomusiyira pa bench ndichani???????

  3. Miko says:

    if water left fam everyting becaume well.i prophesors.

  4. WAFAWAFA says:

    Kusiya Bagio pa bench was the greatest mistake. Mtawali has learned dat u reap wat u sow. in his playing carier he was so rude to coaches .

  5. chris says:

    No player is bigger than a coach, baggio is in good form I agree but he shouldnt have 100% assuarence of game time at flames. The swaziland game malawi managed to score 2 gaols away which is quite promising unfortunately we conceeded silly goals forcing a draw. If young players can score 2 goal away then what else do we need. The coach must rectify the issue of defence. In fact when the experienced player is on bench it gives morale to the infield inexperienced players. I wonder how baggio think that if he was featured in that game malawi ikanawina ha ha ha ha footbal is unpredictable………. GO AHEAD MTAWALI

  6. mpimpa says:

    palibepo chosapotera Thom apa… Iyaaaa kumuyitana munthu basi kukangomukhazika? Contract itha poti ta Ernest! Za ziiiii!

  7. Ndatero ine says:

    Zopusa mwalembazi nde flames inawina coz ng’ambi sanasewele? Or did chelsea win coz of molinyoz tactics forsake zanu baggio ndi dolo n i dont see wina better than him pa mid mtawali made a mistake zachamba timadana nazo. Seweresani the best team osati -omati eeeh awa ndu akale ugwidi eti. MTAWALI WATCH OUT

  8. kesterkalonga says:

    Let the coaches chose their favourite players.The names never play football

  9. Lovemaniac 91 says:

    Wakwiya ndi mfiti! Kodi mukuti chani? We need new blood in de team. Leave old players completely, coz they hav failed malawi bigtime! Bravo Ntawali and Nswaz! Fortunately Iam not flames fan, zangondikhuza in my foot!

  10. Kamuzu Mbewe says:

    Sure, this old crop of players have not achieved anything for the country. Let’s adopt a mind shift and forget about them altogether. There is nothing special about playing for little known Platinum Stars in RSA. The way Bafana Bafana is pumped with goals by little known teams tells you something about the standard of soccer in SA.

  11. myao says:

    Unasewerapo mpira iwe?

  12. mpimpa says:

    for the first time now I know that thom umangobwebweta zinazi sumazitsata. What Robert is saying here simply shows that he has a hrt for the team. I like mtawali so much in fact I wanted him to be where he is koma zomwe wapangazi wandinyasa hvy infact ngati FAM ingamuchotse vep they hv my support. Let this man go asaaaaa

  13. Noone is bigger than the national team

  14. mzake wa soba says:

    This is a mature peace and objective writing from a sober mind

  15. MaiMai says:

    If Baggio thinks he’s good, why didn’t he win medals for flames all these years he was called? Is it big deal if a player puts on uniform and doesn’t play? Its happening all over the world. Achina Drogba were only playing 10 minutes if he plays that day but presence on the bench without even playing was a plus. So this idiot Baggio doesn’t know this.

    Why do you wait to be called? Just resign from national team period. You must be 48 years now but paja simukula. I started hearing about this guy playing when I was at primary ndili 15 years pano i finished university and have worked for 12 years nde fwefwefwe chani? Playing in useless league of RSA??? Professional player? He hehe! Do you see RSA team winning anything? Why?????

  16. Fala says:

    Its very unfortunate that Robert Ng’ambi thinks he is bigger than the coach. Sometimes its good to respect coaches decisions instead of running to the media. It’s a gud piece and loved reading it.

  17. Mlauzi says:

    My take is that for the Flames to perform we need to blend the exuberance of youth with the sagesse and craftiness of experienced players. The make up should be more youthful players and one or two old guards, the likes of Kanyenda. As far as Joseph is concerned, he used to be a great player on the wings, swinging in those crosses just like Fischer. Whether such players still have the gusto to do the running on the field is a question I can`t answer, suffice to say Joseph has developed some tendencies of negative football i.e. – passing the ball backwards when we should be building up an attack.

    Having said that let me congratulate Thom Chiumia for his maturity into a prolific writer who aptly plays with words and uses similes to great effect. You have really developed from the rookie who used to write in a political newspaper in the post multi party era. Your pieces now make great reading. The humour contained therein makes them unstoppable. Why can`t you consider a novel?

  18. Souja says:

    Its good you are not a coach,you can never coach anything even your own kids,footballers are people of different characters when one wrongs you you sit and talk,its common everywhere they dont want to be benched hence most skillfull coaches are also good listerners so listen Ernest you may learn something from those experienced players.

  19. chris says:

    baggio ndiwabwino koma flames simaluza ali mommo?mpira wamaina unatha,kamwendo sakumenya ku club nde chot adzimutengera mchani?hary nyirenda ma blunder

  20. Mzozodo says:

    Even Baggio himself started featuring for the national team when we all saw that despite being in the same age bracket, Peter Mgangira wasn’t up to task; and veterans like Nyalugwe, Ernest Mtawali himself and John Maduka were running on tired legs etc. Even in England, out went Ince, Wise and Gascoigne, in came the likes of Lampard, Gerald and Scholes.

  21. kassim Daudi says:

    Thom you have my vote!!! Iwish you were an Arsenal fan!!

  22. Willie Chimseu says:

    Thom, this is one of the best you have ever produced so far . True. Abwana a Ngámbi could have kept quet or leave evrything in the hand of football lovers to fight for him the so called injustice. Any way , as for me the coach has taken the right direction as the veterans has given us low deal for quit sometime.

  23. simeon ivory says:

    That’s silly publishing if the so called coach knew that the plàyer has groin injury why calling him to the squad.futseki

  24. Zaire says:

    No,, this article is just the same as Robert Ng’ambi.
    Robert went in the media criticizing the coach for benching him. Which is naive.
    The article is gain spicing the childish behavior of you and Robert. Because for a matured person would have just advised Ng’ambi to respect the coach’s decision.
    And it is not only Ng’ambi who undressed the coach’s decision, just after a game there a voice of Mponda (if not mistaken), he talked a lot in disagreement with what “wire” did. Why don’t you talk about him first before you react to Ng’ambi’s voice. Immaturity at its best.
    The coach called Ng’ambi to attend the game in playing and not benching him.
    Do not say Robert was nursing an injury, then why the coach called him?
    Avoid planting thorns in the team and between team members.
    Who can believe the move to drop all experienced players?
    This clearly shows that you are stirring the coach heart to hate the innocent players like Ng’ambi.
    It too early for Mtawali to do that,,,,otherwise, he is risking his job.

  25. Ayo says:

    Kodi game ya zimbabwe tinaphulapo chani ndi achina kamwendo, harry , ndi ena mwachulawo. Kuiona kuphweka swaziland chifukwa munalibe ma proff. I know its difficult to accept change.

  26. In fact Mtawali shld leave the self centered players like these. In the field of play mtawali was better than what this player is. Ameneyu,kamwendo,kanyenda, fischer akalamba asazawaitanenso

  27. zachabe says:

    The player has intelligent legs but a dull head. How does he think he is wiser than his coach. After all Mtawali played better soccer than him. Mzache wacashgate wapatsidwa 4 months in jail for contempt of judge, uyu naye asatikwitse timutimba ndi contempt of coach.

  28. edgar says:

    Robert was right,mtawali is my friend,we have been close to each other for about 4yrs,I know him in and out,he is not anice guy although he is my best freind.Robert is the only player dat scores regulary and who s playing regulary.mention one player who is better dan Robert???if he was injured why calling him???am 100p/c backing Robert,he deserve respect.

  29. Mr condom,yes that's me Mr condom says:

    kodi abwanaso mumazitsata chonchi za mpira,eee am impressed,in the last paragraph u have nailed it,great stuff

  30. JAPHET KAIRA says:

    We need to respect coach’s decision,dd we see kumwendo refusing to b subsuted during zim game? it ment he overpowered the coach so mtawali does not want such behaviours.Dont criticise much the coach bcoz you was not there at the camp and knwo what was happening

  31. I support you Thom Chiumia big time. A parable of a port and a porter. By the way,who does Robert Ng’ambi think he is that he can not be benched?

  32. Zabwino says:

    No 6 u are right and wrong. We need experience gurus combined with young talent to go forge ahead, but to say we dont hav resources, check me, who said so when we swindle monies in the govt as if its our own, if the 577….& 92…were stil in the govt coffers, wud we be where we are today? Ernest do your job and dont mind those who are not in the field of play.

  33. Mzozodo says:

    I agree with baggio Enerst is acoward jst now he wil be sucked

  34. Zanako says:

    Mtawali pray to your god lucky you the game ended that way .Malawi would have lost the game.I felt you too were nervous such that you could not read the game and have that deep understanding as you used to.
    If you have difference s with some prayers please this should not cost us the game. Sort them out as soon as you can . I trust you can do a better job show it .use every good prayer for your own betterment

  35. coach waz wrong.y did he called a player if he knew of his injury and wont pray?

  36. Namisako. says:


  37. Brazilian wax says:

    That’s good stuff Loose canon!

  38. SUB WA BULLETS says:

    Honestly speaking,,,,,,,W@ Mtawali did was wrong,,,,,left him on bench was not wrong @ first but wen Mecium was out due to injury the best replacement was Ng’ambi not yamikani chester,,,,,,i bet we cud hav won d@ game but mmmmmmmmmmm ma coach akumalawi zidani ndi ma players

  39. Bibo says:

    Ng’ambi is a good player,but not as a direct attacking midfielder,i.e he is not the kind of Peterkings Kaira or Muhammad Salah of Egypt who could/can penetrate straight at opponents in a quick attacking mode, and then either passing the ball to be finished into a goal or score straight.

    Ng’ambi is not very quick and his moves don’t go straight to the goal area to make him a good attacking man, but is either an occasional target man from midfield or a short-spell ball passer;he is in between an attacking midfielder and defending midfielder,but can improvise as an attacking one while supporting strikers.However, he can be inconsistent, sometimes playing well while during other times playing like he is just a passive shadow.Surprisingly,he has been evergreen at his club maybe because of his positioning and not because he plays a direct attacking role.

    Due to the fact that Malawi is not blessed with so many midfielders playing at the highest level especially in Europe,the coaches have no choice but to include Ng’ambi in the starting line-ups in upcoming games because he has experience,but not because he is an above average player.He is not an above average midfielder because his work rate varies with particular games while playing for the national team.He has talent but his talent has not been fully exploited in the South African league.He would have made a great player in France or Germany.

    Ernest Mtawali is trying to prove a point that he has produced his own team, but I am afraid he might be playing the “Mississippi Stud” gumbling game.Too much usage of young players can be suicidal.He needs to blend New and old, but not very old. I have no problem with the likes of Ng’ambi,Swini,Kanyenda,and Msowoya because these players seem to contribute well to the national team.However,Kanyenda will need a permanent replacement in two and half years time.

    One last helpful tip to the coaches is if they try using a 3:5:2 system whereby two defending midfielders are deployed in the middle while one attacking midfielder and two wingers are utilized.This means there will be two strikers and three defenders.This system is good for Malawi because it is both defensive and attacking.

  40. chefourpence says:

    A good analytical read! Nicely donei

  41. Flames 1 says:

    Great stuff and Great piece indeed I truly like and support this piece a million times

  42. Mpandadzina says:

    Please lets not put words into other people’s mouths.Is saying one is bitter by warming the bench or they are better than the featured players or indeed they might not go if called in future-“ALL SORTS OF BAD THINGS ABOUT THE COACH”!We know you like this coach better than those gone but show it by advising him for he needs the advice more than the player.How can he be embarking on experimenting on crucial games when he knows its the same competition that saw the other guys packing.Great coaches mix experience with new talent.We also don’t know what he has achieved as a coach for a senior or professional club.A coach worth his salt cannot call for duty a player who is on injury list????He knew that the guy was okay.About John Terry you also know that Rooney nearly left Man U because of the bench.No professional when they know they are still good likes the bench!!!So start advising your guy ahead of the Tanzania game otherwise he is better off not moving his family.

  43. cj says:

    Bagio sikudzimva koma ndima stress a kunyumba kwake paja akazake sakuti awagwira liti mu rustenburg mu,he is a quite guy but he should not take family matters kukaphwetsera kwa abwana ake,thanks to Mtawali do what’s good for our national team

  44. Ahoy says:

    ANgambi team drew away when u were not there. Do u play in defence or goalie to stop the easy goals we let in

  45. Joseph says:

    Good decision to drop the bastard! These “professional players” think they own the national team and need to be worshipped! I say drop all these fags, Baggio, Kamwendo,,,, and all.
    Their time is up now and they have to accept it. Infact Mtawali will do us all a favour by not inviting them ever again. The national team wasn’t doing any better with these “professionals” in it anyway. Look at the netball team, only has 1 professional player but these ladies are all hungrier at the world stage, up to number 6 in world ranking now. Mtawali, draft a letter and tell all professionals to go jump onto the sea or hang themselves up, let them see if we care really! For chrissake they are playing in South Africa, NOT Europe!

  46. Chisale says:

    Ernest Mtawali doesn’t have that couching experience that he can do without experienced players like Ng’ambi never he is just opening his own exiting door otherwise Malawi doesn’t have money to loose for nothing we need a couch who will deliver we are tired of the same excuses of building a team till when? Robert Ng’ambi was right nothing wrong in his criticism Mtawali must respect the fact that Malawi as a small country we have little resources of which we need to use it wisely so much so that by the end of the day we should be somewhere else. why does Mtawali not taking an example from Malawi queens? here we’re talking about experience in order to have success nothing else but experience.

  47. jojn jere says:

    Harry nyirenda,josephy kamwendo,robert ng’ambi,frank banda are some of the players we can not do without,apo biii!palibe chomwe tiphulepo,at least dropping unlucky malata was better,a mtawali contract simumaliza!mukukhumudwiytsa,blend experience with ur talent it gona work!

  48. jojn jere says:

    Mpaka kumutaya frank banda?mwabwera kudzawononga eeti?zikutiwawa!we nid results,we are not on an experiment plz!

    1. mwe says:

      Nanenso am not convinced why Frank Banda is always snubbed, the guy has never disappointed whenever he comes in a pitch….Of course, the coach are not obliged to recite the shortfall of the players to the everyone but for he has not disappoint us before, I for one need an explanation then maybe I will be convinced.

  49. jojn jere says:

    Harry nyirenda,josephy kamwendo,robert ng’ambi 3e some of the players we can not do without,apo biii!paline chomwe tiphulepo,at least dropping unlucky malata was better,a mtawali contract simumaliza!mukukhumudwiytsa,blend experience with ur talent it gona work!

  50. Zamanyazi says:

    Thom Chumia,why did Ernest invite Baggio when he knew he had a groin injury? Why did he allow Baggio put on the uniform when he knew he wouldn’t feature due to the groin. Are you not trying to defend what ought not be defended? I have followed Malawi football and have known Baggio as one of the most disciplined players. Being a senior player with vast experienceBaggio knew what he meant. If I were you,Thom,I would realize that there is something terribly wrong in our camp. Ernest,as coach, has the right to choose who to and not to feature. However,such choice should have basis otherwise we will be going round the same mountain failing to climb it.

  51. If I were the coach that was going to be the end of him being called to national team

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