By Dino Ballotti
“Hi Dino, Congrats on the initiative to write on something that is so crucial and timely for football in Namibia and the rest of the continent – Coaching Philosophies. Nothing can be successfully developed, substantially improved or consistently won by any nation without a relevant coaching concept that recognizes and fully respects the nature /traits of its players, culture/traditions and respective environment. Successful empirical coaching experiences and now the science of football confirm this reality. Africa MUST STOP being dependent on imported coaching mentalities that IGNORE the specifics/characteristics of richly talented African players. Sufficient scientific info/data is available for the African football to develop and apply indigenous coaching solutions as the ONLY answer to the progress and international emancipation of our game. There is NO OTHER OPTION.” – Ted Dumitru
“The Professor” or “Mr Magic” as Mr Dumitru commonly goes by is without a doubt the answer to any African nation’s football predicament. He is a walking football encyclopedia, just like our very own Mario Carreira. Master Ted’s story has fascinated me from the moment I was given my first coaching gift, a book that I still use to this very day, entitled Maximal Training. The book discusses the footballer’s brain, player’s emotions and most notably the differences between African and European football. It also provides many simply-detailed coaching exercises which Invincible, Young Ones, SKW, Ramblers and recently Tigers have all had the pleasure of experiencing.
I would like to share with today’s readers the story of Mr. Theodore ‘Ted’ Dumitru, born Dumitru Teodorescu. I should give credit to our good friend Wikipedia for some of the facts before I commence.
Master Ted started off as any young man, playing the beautiful game in his native Bucharest. It was due to injuries at an early age that he called it a day as a player and focused all his energies into coaching. Till today he holds the record of being the youngest head coach in Romania’s Liga 1. At the youthful age of 25 he steered Universitatea Craiova clear from relegation in his debut season, he followed that relegation scrap with an 8th placed finish the following season. Thereafter, Master Ted led the Romanian U-23 Olympic side before moving to Turkey where he coached Altay Izmir, Besiktas and later Mersin all in the Turkey’s Super League.
An interesting fact about Master Ted was that in 1973, he arrived in Germany seeking political asylum, as in his homeland of Romania he was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison. The following year he decided to venture into the America’s where he trained San Diego United. It was from this point on that he went by the name Ted Dumitru.
Fast forward to1980, Matser Ted was appointed as the Zambian national coach. He led Chipolopolo to qualifying for the 1981 African Cup of Nations, funny enough the team didn’t participate due to his U.S passport, as hosting Libya did not allow Americans into the country. He later left Zambia and signed up with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) where he was eventually tasked to help develop football in Swaziland and later our own Land of the Brave, from 2000 – 2001. I really could talk forever about Master Ted’s positions as either coach or technical director of both club and country, however, Penda (Hashoongo – Confidente’s Sports Editor) would then need to give me the entire spread.
Mr Magic believes in local is lekker, a sentiment I share tenfold. He is a coach that does things the right way and believes in grooming young talent, this is evident in his various roles as Youth Technical Director for both SAFA and Mamelodi Sundowns. In his tenure as head coach of the South African big three, Kaizer Chiefs, Sundowns and Orlando Pirates he managed to win Silverware on each occasion, catapulting the Ghosts to an African Champions league final, a feat that had never been done before.
I recently read an article in Kick Off, entitled Dumitru: SA football is boring! Here Master Ted criticized technical leadership in South Africa, questioning SAFA’s approach of ‘globalising’ local football. He was quoted saying, “When it comes to styles of football, you cannot globalise it, the examples are Spain, Germany, Brazil, etc. If you go to these countries and tell them they have to globalise their game, they will laugh at you and show you the door.” He also highlighted the fact that South Africa only have 11 qualified youth coaches and is not happy about it to say the least.
The reason I mention this is simple, with no disrespect to my association, us as Namibians need to be more proactive in developing tomorrows Collin Benjamin’s, we need to have clear and structured guidelines, modern coaching philosophies and professional/ qualified coaches working with our young footballers, not fathers and school teachers – only then can we really try compete in Africa. The vision must always be long term! “The longer we delay to accept that we got it wrong, the more damage is going to be done, we only have 11 qualified youth coaches in the country (South Africa) and that’s the most ridiculous thing you ever heard in any football nation. When you want to develop football, you first develop youth coaches. It is absolutely crazy,” states Mr Magic, Ted Dumitru.
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