Can new Rollers coach stand the heat?

New man: Oktay has been appointed Rollers coach 
New man: Oktay has been appointed Rollers coach PIC: JONAH ONYANGO

Township Rollers new coach, Hassan Oktay comes across as someone who fits the bill to lead the 16-time league champions, but will he be able to survive what seems to be one of the hottest seats in local football, writes Mmegi Staffer, BOITUMELO KHUTSAFALO

Gaborone giants, Township Rollers this week announced the appointment of Turkish-born gaffer, Hassan Oktay as the new head coach following the departure of Nikola Kavazovic. The club has revealed that the search criteria for Kavazovic’s successor was premised on three fundamental principles, being credentials, track record and compatibility.

“As much as we want to win, we have to win the Rollers way, with high intensity, and attractive football and lots of goals,” the club’s chief executive officer (CEO), Bennett Mamelodi says of the new appointment. On paper, the man who is a United Kingdom (UK) resident, has the expertise to emulate other great foreign coaches who have guided the team before.

His most recent achievement as head coach was at the Kenyan side, Gor Mahia in 2019 where he won the league title. He also went on to lead the club to the quarterfinals of the CAF Confederations Cup for the first time in its history. On the way to the quarterfinals, Oktay led Gor Mahia to a famous 4-2 win over Egyptian giants, Zamalek. Before then, he had previously worked as a head coach and fitness coach for Braintree FC in England. He had also spent one year and six months as the head coach of Grays Athletic FC in Thailand between September 2012 and February 2014. That was after his stint at Banbury United in England where he served as the assistant coach. He also has experience working with young players. He spent almost three years between January 2005 and July 2007 as a youth academy coach at the English Premier League side, West Ham United.

On top of his credentials together with his UEFA A License, the expectation is that he will at the least be able to match his predecessors’ achievements, otherwise, his stay like all others that came before him will be short-lived. From 2015, Rollers have completely dominated the league, winning the title four times in a row but that did not seem enough for some of the coaches. From 2015 to date, Rollers have changed coaches eight times.

Traditionally, Rollers supporters are very demanding of instant results and their impatience has led to the departure of some of the gaffers who had arrived with huge expectations. Winning the league title alone in a season may not be enough for some of the hard-to-please fans and management. Briton, Mark Harrison arrived in 2015 and won the league title.

He left in the middle of the following season. Teenage Mpote took over and successfully defended the league title but was snubbed for the position of head coach the following season. Rolo Zapata also managed to win the league title but stayed only one season. Only Kavazovic appeared to have won almost everyone’s hearts at Rollers, probably the reason why his return last year was highly celebrated by Rollers supporters, although he left prematurely recently. When he arrived in 2017, Kavazovic set the bar too high for everyone coming after him.

He won the league, Mascom Top 8 and led the club to the group stages of the CAF Champions League for the first time in one season. Zapata, Tomas Truchel and most recently Frank Nuttal were all expected to fit in Kavazovic’s boots, which proved too big. However, with the arrival of Oktay, Rollers appear to dream about bigger things once again. “He is a proactive and tactically intelligent professional who understands the changing landscape of the modern game.

Hassan is renowned for exceptional coaching, man management and player development skills to build teams capable of progressing to a higher level. We have learnt that Hassan incorporates strength, conditioning and fitness into training sessions to make sure optimal status of players are of the standard needed in professional football,” Mamelodi said in his weekly column when he announced Oktay’s capture.

The new coach is expected to be hands-on in assessing two foreign players that are expected to arrive in the country this week before a decision is made on whether they are signed or not. He will find an already expensively assembled squad, boasting of at least five Zebras players.

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