Calm yet thorough, Mbungo out to reawaken sleeping giant Bandari
Jacob Icia at Mbaraki Sports Club
Casa Mbungo is known for his trademark dressing , at least on match days. A sparkling white shirt, hitherto untucked, and a blue jeans has become his preferred choice of wardrobe.
But beneath that dress code lies a strong resolve to pull off something extraordinary – guide Bandari – the Coast based football club to their first league title.
It is a Herculean task by all standards but doable. He many not attain it in his debut season, but the succeeding ones, if he sees out his contract.
Doing so will not only make him leave behind a rich legacy at the Mbaraki based outfit but safeguard his name in the club’s history books.
“I came here knowing the history of the club; we have not won the Premier League yet. That is my dream, to win it in my days here. It is not an easy task and probably that is why it has not been achieved before, but we can do it. It may not be necessarily within this season but that is the grand project I’m working to accomplish,” Mbungo told Citizen Digital.
He recalls how such a dream was cut short when he first coached in Kenya, at AFC Leopards, but the dream aborted owing to contractual dispute with his then employer thus quitting, in 2019.
“I had built a team that was ready to compete for the title, but everyone knows how the story ended as the club was really struggling. Most of the players you saw here today (at the Mbaraki Sports Club on Friday) are the ones we were building to compete for the title save for two or three.
Everything was working perfectly between me and the players, the management and the fans except the issue of finances. I’m however happy that I’m back in the league and for another exciting project – to win the first title for Bandari,” a confident, yet soft in speech Mbungo explained.
His work at Leopards was first to save the team from relegation after taking over from Marko Vasiljevic, but his eventual resignation in December 2019 was a painful decision which he acknowledges was unfortunate but unavoidable.
“The Leopards family loves me to date because they understood my passion and patience when I was there. They have also not won the league for a long time, and we had that believe, that we were making progress towards it. However, this is football and things keep on changing, we want to do it with Bandari.
And what’s the road map in achieving the goal?
“First it is to instill the belief that we can win big matches and have a bigger sense of competing against anyone, not celebrating just a victory or two but sustaining the momentum because that’s how leagues are won,” underscored Mbungo.
The urgency to change things at Bandari is evident in Mbungo’s plan, and is already demanding results in quite a firm tone.
“I said we need to win our next three matches as a way of recovering from the slow start we had into this season. You cannot have the confidence to compete well for the top places if there are teams 10 points or more above you. I’m glad we have won this (against Leopards), but we must now work (for victory) agaisnt Vihiga United then Ulinzi Stars away to Kericho,” offered the tactician, who took over from club’s Technical Director Twahir Muhiddin, whose caretaker head coach role was necessitated by resignation of Sofapaka FC’s Ken Odhiambo just after three matches in the current campaign.
Bandari are currently on +1 goal-difference in the league, a statistic Mbungo is not impressed with. Against Leopards, he deployed experienced centre-back Felly Mulumba in the midfield, tasking him to advance whenever they were attacking but tactfully retreating to cage Leopards’ lead striker Elvis Rupia anytime their opponents were on the offensive.
Thus, Bernard Odhiambo and Brian Otieno played perfect centre-backs role, quite a new approach which the coach explained.
“We played Mulumba there because we wanted to avoid conceding at such a high rate. We conceded one today, but we want to do better defending and scoring goals. We have seen areas we must strengthen to be more competitive but that could be next season, so for now we maximize on the players we have,” he noted.
His rallying call to the fans is to be patient and support the team as he works towards building strong force in the domestic league.
“We will progressively get there, competing for the title with a competitive team that is not celebrated for winning a match or two… We h however have to be patient as this is not done overnight,” he stated, further registering his gratitude to the technical bench he found at Mbaraki.
Having been given a freehand to choose his assistant coach, Mbungo has been working with Muhiddin as his key man for close to two months with his former assistant at Leopards Anthony Kimani set to join him at Bandari.
“I cannot say anything conclusive about the coming of Anthony Kimani here until it is official. He has however grown immensely since I left him at AFC Leopards and would be of great help if he finally joins us. For now the technical bench I have been working with has been fantastic, led by the Technical Director Muhiddin,” he concluded.
Muhiddin, in his brief comments backed Mbungo to succeed in his mission, saying he has “made interesting changes” he would want as he charges towards what no other man in the Bandai history has done – winning the Kenyan Premier League.