Described as a nomad but a genius, Mark Harrison has arrived at Township Rollers amid soaring expectations. His handshake is firm, but with a soft voice, Harrison tells Mmegi Staff Writers, MQONDISI DUBE and CALISTUS KOLANTSHO he is ready for the massive blue challenge
Mmegi Sport: Briefly tell us about yourself?
Harrison: I am British and I have been involved in the professional game for 38years now since the age of 16 when I started playing. I have played in the UK and South Africa. I have coached in the UK, South Africa, Asia and Zimbabwe. I have a lot of experience and knowledge I bring to Rollers.
Mmegi Sport: There are concerns that you are a nomadic coach, what can you attribute your movements too?
Harrison: I always get this question from you guys no matter where I am. What aggrieves me is that people write without background. I am very ambitious and professional. Most clubs tell me about their ambitions, but they do not match that with commitment levels.
A lot of African clubs run into financial problems and do not fulfill their commitments.
When I met (Rollers director, Jagdish) Shah, I knew Rollers was the biggest club in the country. I knew looking outside in, that they could potentially win trophies and compete in Africa.
That is what I want to do, win trophies and compete in Africa as well as work in a professional environment. I think Shah’s ambition matches mine and vice versa. I am here to try and win the league and take the club back to Africa to compete and not just have a two game safari.
Mmegi Sport: When you talk about issues of finance in African leagues, what guarantee is there that you will not face a similar situation at Rollers?
Harrison: I take people on face value and trust that we can form a good working relationship. I think Shah wants to use my experience and knowledge to improve Township Rollers. Together, hopeful we can deliver.
Mmegi Sport: How did you come to know about Rollers?
Harrison: You know I was with Caps United in Zimbabwe and they went through a horrific financial period. It was reported in the media that the Rollers coach (Madinda Ndlovu) had left and I was interested and sent my CV across.
Mmegi Sport: What have you achieved in your career?
Harrison: In the UK as a player and coach I won trophies. In Africa unfortunately nothing, but I reached the semi finals of the Nedbank Cup with Black Aces. I have been at clubs that want to achieve but when you work with them they don’t want to achieve.
Unfortunately, I have not been with the big clubs like Pirates, Chiefs or Sundowns that usually win things. That’s why I came to Rollers because they are the biggest club in Botswana and I have ambitions to win trophies with them.
Mmegi Sport: How much do you know about Botswana football?
Harrison: To be honest not a great amount.
Its what you pick in the press or television. It is important to find out about African football as much as possible.
I know Rollers is a big club and the expectations are high. When I met the president (Shah) and seeing what he is about, I think the club is him.
He is professional and a successful businessman. If he is putting money back into the club, you expect it to be successful.
Mmegi Sport: Are you content with the one-year contract?
Harrison: We spoke about certain things and I am not stressed. I want to get into the job and do well, that’s all. If you do well the rest will follow.
Mmegi Sport: Issues of management’s interference in the coach’s job are widespread, did you discuss it?
Harrison: We spoke about it and the president said he does not get involved in team selection or the system of play.
Obviously he has to be hands on, but he has assured me he doesn’t get involved in those type of things (team selection) and if it’s like that everybody is happy. I have run into that problem in South Africa. If results don’t go our way, I am the person who is fired. If I am fired, let me be fired on my own grounds.
Mmegi Sport: Have you discussed the squad?
Harrison: We spoke about the squad. I know it’s a large squad and I want to give everyone an opportunity. It will be unfair to say I want to bring in new players before I give the present players a chance.
Mmegi Sport: Have you been given an assurance that you will sign players of your choice and not that of the management?
Harrison: We had a meeting and the president said he wants me to assess the squad first. I am sure there are players who had been identified by the current technical stuff and we can always look at it.
Mmegi Sport: Will we see some CAPS players joining Rollers?
Harrison: I left behind a tremendous bunch. But I have to see what I got here. It’s not always ideal to bring players with you. It’s a matter of assessing and seeing where we can beef up. I have no pre-conceived ideas (to bring players from CAPS), that will be unfair.
Mmegi Sport: Do you know Peter Butler, the Zebras coach who is from the UK as well?
Harrison: I don’t know Peter personally, but I think we did cross paths when he was a player and I was a coach. But if I get a chance I will catch up with him soon.
Mmegi Sport: What type of football do you prefer?
Harrison: I want us to play an entertaining brand. You see we are in the entertainment business, but at the same time we have to win games. We have to play possession football and at the same time maintain a high tempo.
Mmegi Sport: Do you feel any pressure coming into a big club with a massive fan base and you have one season to prove yourself?
Harrison: I am not nervous, in fact I am excited. You are in football to be in the highest level you can. I believe I am at the biggest club in Botswana. If you don’t want to work in that environment then you should not be in the game.
If you are content to work in a mediocre environment, what’s the point? I have got drive, ambition and desire and I hate losing. I am looking forward to the challenge.
Mmegi Sport: Off the field, how do you describe yourself?
Harrison: I keep myself to myself and my wife (sic). I have been married for 31years. We go wherever we go and get on with our life. I don’t get involved with too many people outside football. I like to spend time in the gym, I guess it gives me time to de-stress.
Mmegi Sport: Since it’s your first time in Botswana, what are your impressions?
Harrison: It is like a mini-South Africa, but with a nicer feel. In South Africa you have to look over your shoulder, but I don’t get that impression here.
It’s clean, modern and its first world. The infrastructure is excellent. If you look across sub-Sahara, this probably where you want to be.
Name: Mark Simon Harrison
Date of birth: 11.12.1960
Place of birth: Derby, England
Clubs played for: Southampton, Portville, Stoke City (UK), Hellenic (South Africa)
Clubs coached: Bristol City, Everton, Oxford United (UK), Bangladesh national team, Hurriya (Maldeves), Chippa United, Golden Arrows, Free State Stars, Mpumalanga Black Aces (South Africa), Caps United (Zimbabwe)
Marital status: Married