Twahir Muhiddin: The football experience in Brazil: Was it the turning point of his coaching career?

Twahir Muhiddin in action

It is October and the FKF Instructors Course is taking place at Moi International Sports Center Kasarani. The head Instructor is the FKF Technical Director from Germany Andreas Spiers and the year is 2016. The Technical Director is assisted by two able Education officers in Michael Amenga and David Ouma. In the training there are many Coaching legends and former soccer legends that have done a lot of proud for this Country of Kenya. Apart from gaining a wealth of information and enjoying handshakes with legends such as Peter Dawo who put Kenya on the football map of Africa in 1987, I also get the privilege to share information one on one with football technocrats such as Patrick Naggi and many others.  During this training there is this cool man who is always exciting whenever he says a point. The man seems to be knowledgeable and widely travelled and this captures my imagination. At one point he mentions about his experience in Brazil where he attended a coaching course. I pay attention to every word that this wise man utters. He mentions these questions that they were asked by a Brazilian Instructor during their training in Brazil. “What is the ball made of? (Leather), where does leather come from? (Cow) what does a cow feed on? (Grass). After the trainees answered the questions the Brazilian Instructor then told us the ball should always stay on the ground during play”. Twahir Muhiddin recalls. Twahir agrees with this fact by saying “Some funny sense though it’s easier to do anything with the ball on the ground as proved by Messi, Neymar and Maradona amongst other stars. This is a life time story of the football experience of Twahir Muhiddin when he toured Brazil for a coaching course. It is the story of great  fulfillment after attending training sessions of mighty Brazilian teams such as Flamengo and Vasco da Gama. This is the unforgettable story of Twahir Muhiddin after watching Brazilian football monsters such as Zico, Jorginho and Romario the assassin playing matches.

At the Flamengo endurance training site. Twahir Muhiddin slightly behind Vince Ombiji (with the ball). (Photo: Vince Ombiji)

Coaching course in Brazil

1987 is the year Twahir Muhiddin trained as a coach in Brazil. He was sponsored for this training by Mombasa Wanderers Sports Club that participated in the Kenya top tier football league. The training was for the English speaking countries. Around 30 coaches from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Jamaica, Arab Countries and other regions of the world attended. The Head Instructor was Espezin Neto a Brazilian. The assistant was also a Brazilian. The trainees had sessions with Mario Zagallo and Zico.  Alongside Twahir Kenya was also represented by Edmund Omema now in the USA, Vince Ombiji and Akbar Khan then with Shabana FC.

The coaches went through some science teachings regarding physical training for the players. “we were attached to Flamengo which had Zico and Bebeto among other players in the National team. We also attended training sessions of Vasco da Gama which had Romario. The Coaches training was mainly based on the Brazilian philosophy which was revamped after a disastrous 1974 World Cup campaign. The Brazilians started integrating sports sciences with some Universities involved. One thing the Brazilian instructor told us is that they found themselves wanting on the physical side of things unlike the European teams” States Twahir. Brazilian football was never violent by nature. The Brazilians didn’t know how to play hard. European teams played hard but fair. “So knowing the advantage they had technically over the Europeans they started working on the physical part in collaboration with Universities” Adds Twahir.

“At the time we started the coaching course Zico was out injured. I went to Brazil 2 weeks earlier than expected. The other trainees came for the regulatory 4 weeks. I was taken by the assistant trainer to watch some matches and attend training sessions of some other big clubs. By then Bebeto was playing in place of Zico at Flamengo. Bebeto was about 23 but his body composition was small in all aspects and was put in a body building regime and special diet but despite that he was too crafty and scoring goals. The training was detailed and you could obviously see the pedagogy. Its effect was clearly replicated during the matches. You know what? On his return, Zico hit a hat trick in Rio and what a player! They christened him the “White Pele”! I was at the match. Zico made the difference in the game as he was a genius and a brilliant player. Technically there is nothing to say of the players of that time as proved by the Samba of the “94” class World Champions 7 years later. I was asking myself questions I will never forget. Are these humans or what? Am I dreaming? Especially a team known as Sao Paolo whose players were juggling tennis balls for 30 minutes as part of their warm up and we saw them play in Rio de Janeiro. We didn’t believe our eyes” Sentimental memories by Twahir.

The memorable match at Maracana-The status symbol for Brazil

Flamengo football squad in 1987. Zico the most iconic player in the history of the club is 3rd from right. (Photo-Courtesy)

The Maracana stadium was opened in 1950 to host the FIFA World Cup in which Brazil was beaten 2-1 by Uruguay in front of 199,854 spectators on 16th July 1950. The wholly unexpected and traumatic defeat was regarded as a “national tragedy” the stadium has been a “temple” and a “sacred space” of football, a place where Brazil’s Jogo bonito was developed and curated. Maracana is a place where players become legends. Twahir Muhiddin the emblematic Coach confesses “the climax of our stay in Brazil was the 1st leg of the Brazilian Championship between Flamengo and Atletico Mineiro at the Maracana Stadium”.  Flamengo is the most popular club in Brazil with over 40.2 million supporters as of 2020. It is also Brazil’s richest and most valuable football club. Zico is the most iconic Flamengo player. “During this match Atletico Mineiro was coached by Tele Santana. At the Maracana, the crowd was 119,000! Gate collection was Ksh 6M! Score 2-1 for Flamengo.” Says an astonished Twahir Muhiddin. On 1st June 1980 in the Compeonato Brasileiro Serie A at Maracana Flamengo won 3-2 against Atletico Mineiro in the highest attendance of 154,355 people. Some of the greatest players to have played for Flamengo are Ze’Carlos, Aldair, Edinho, Jorginho, Zico, Zinho, Bebeto, Renato Gaucho, and Leandro.

Twahir Muhiddin (3rd from left), Vince Ombiji (2nd from right), Akbar Khan (3rd from right) during the match observation at Maracana Stadium in 1987. The match was between Flamengo and Atletico Mineiro. (Photo Courtesy- Vince Ombiji

Brazil’s dominance in World Cup

The Brazil National Football team has won the FIFA World Cup tournament five times, the most of any team, in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. Football is not a country sport. It is the Country itself. Some of the greatest players from Brazil are Pele, Garincha, Ronaldo, Zico, Socrates, Jairzinho, Romario, Falcao, Ronaldinho, Gerson and Neymar. About the Brazilian dominance Twahir comments that “they stood out tall due to their individual technical finesse and of course through some revolutionary tactics by the veteran Coaches like Zagallo but later on Commercialization, Europeanization of the way they play after retirement of most of the 1970 World Cup Champion players. In a foreword message by Terry Venables in the book titled Soccer Skills and Tactics the former English player and Manager remarks that “after several years of poor results the English game accepted that it needed to become more tactically sophisticated. Our technical inferiority did not matter when we were stronger and fittery but now that many countries can match our traditional strengths we have to be able to match theirs”. While England relied on their physical strength Brazil relied on their tactical strength.  Twahir says “Brazil became physical like in their game against Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup you won’t believe your eyes, it’s like they were playing Koth Biro! There were long fixture schedules in 1987. Top teams played nearly 80-100 matches inclusive of Copa Libertadores Americana and Copa Libertadores so the players were exhausted when the more important World Cups came calling, mass player’s exodus to Europe (brain drain), youth structures were left to the dogs but then came Tele Santana with his brand of the old Brazilian style and the Giant was a woken again”.

Simply to win or to try to win beautifully

Simply to win or to try to win beautifully, football eternal debate was never more relevant when the Brazilian National team under Tele Santana lit up the 1982 World Cup in Spain.  The World was crazy about them when a team in yellow created a romantic atmosphere. Brazil lost to Italy but the men in yellow will always be remembered as the team that enthralled an entire generation.  It was the end of a style that had dominated football for quarter of a century. “It’s impossible to understand the World, Brazil lost” Stated the Spanish press. All Spanish papers said the World Cup was over when Brazil was knocked out in the quarter final by the eventual winners Italy.

Twahir states that “patriotism is historical in Brazil more than it is here in Kenya. To be called to play for the National team is like being called to the Kingdom of God for the local players there”.

Duty at Harambee Stars

“I was the Assistant Coach to Mohammed Kheri in the National team Harambee Stars in 1989. I used the knowledge I had acquired in Brazil 2 years earlier to good effect and we were the first locals to qualify for the AFCON Algiers “90”. Twahir looks back on.  In 1988 and 1990 a total of 8 teams from the continent qualified for the AFCON unlike nowadays where 24 teams qualify for the final showdown. This was indeed highly competitive. The teams that qualified for the 1990 AFCON were Kenya, Algeria (hosts), Cameroon (holders), Ivory Coast, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and Zambia. Tough teams. “I thank God for the achievements. I was only 30 by then”. Twahir thanks the High Most Lord. Kenya was placed in Group B alongside Zambia, Senegal and Cameroun. Kenya drew 0-0 with Senegal’s lions of Teranga and lost 1-0 to Zambia and 2-0 to Cameroun. Around that period Kenya almost qualified for its maiden World Cup only for Egypt to spoil the party for the Kenyans when they beat them in Cairo.

FKF Instructors Course at Moi Sports Center Kasarani in 2016. Twahir Muhiddin (behind FKF President Nick Mwendwa. Sitting front row from left is legendary Patrick Naggi, Kamure, David Ouma (Harambee Starlets Coach), Nick Mwendwa (FKF President), former FKF Technical Director (Andreas Spiers)  and the current FKF Technical Director Michael Amenga. (Photo- Courtesy)

 Twahir was the Assistant Coach of Harambee Stars under Anthony Hey. Locally he led Oserian when they clinched the National league (KPL) in 2001. He led the flower men to an impressive continental tour against Egyptian and Tunisian sides.  Commenting on his coaching mentors Twahir affirms “I learnt a lot from Coach Marshall Mulwa and more so Mohamed Kheri who instilled immense confidence in me”. When Jacob “Ghost” Mulee was recently appointed as the National team coach he seconded Twahir Muhiddin and Musa Otieno as the coaches who would work under him

FKF role in Coaching Courses

Apart from organizing the Leagues and the National teams the current FKF under the leadership of President Nick Mwendwa have greatly empowered Coaches by organizing many coaching courses Countrywide.  I asked Twahir on the benefits of grassroots training of coaches in Kenya and his response was. “It was said if you want to bring down a Nation, deny its people education. So do the opposite for it to prosper. Since 2016 the FKF has empowered almost 5,000 grassroots, Premier League, NSL, County and Sub-County Coaches for free. Less than 100 coaches have done the commercial courses where they have paid for it.  At least we rest assured our kids are in safe hands and then our national teams, Premier league and NSL clubs will enjoy success”

The maiden Coaching course for local football instructors with Basic/Advanced C Licenses was conducted in December last year by FKF. The approved Instructors were trained by UEFA Pro License holder Erich Rutenmoeller. FKF President Nick Mwendwa was present at the launch.

“We have scheduled 3 level C- license courses in the beginning of April and the registration is scheduled to start at the beginning of February 2021. There will also be refresher courses for those who participated in the 2017 level C license courses scheduled to start in the beginning of June and the registration will start in late March. The B- license courses are scheduled to start in July and will take at least 3 months. The A- license courses are scheduled for September and will take at least 6-7 months. All the courses will be commercial upon approval by CAF”.   Reported Michael Amenga the FKF Technical Director.

Elite Kenyan Coaches during the FIFA Instructors Course in Kenya in 2019. On the Front row from left is Twahir Muhiddin (Harambee Stars Assistant Coach and Bandari FC Technical Director), George Ondula, Vince Ombiji, Nick Mwendwa (FKF President), Jacob “Ghost” Mulee (Harambee Stars Coach), Martha Karimi and Noordin. (Photo-Courtesy)

Source of the rich knowledge

Asked what makes him a well-informed coach Twahir speaks “I rarely watch movies. I would rather watch cartoons and adventure ones with my kids and enjoy them. Neither do I read novels or any other books except biographies of the famous coaches in Basketball, Hockey and Rugby as these games have similar demands to soccer.

I also read the histories of the great people who lived on this earth like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. I like to watch Joel Osteen and motivational speakers”.

Calm and Self Controlled

I have experienced Twahir Muhiddin handle pressure and crisis in a calm and self-controlled way in a number of forums. When interviewing him I asked how he manages to do this even when things seem to be getting out of hand. His response was “I have chosen to be at war with anger, grudges and bad company so that I sustain the invaluable peace of mind. My late father was also very strict about character. I learnt the hard way through caning”. He says this followed by laughter. “Lastly the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Bible occupies a major role in my life” He mentions.

His role in Transition of Players into coaches

Twahir has mentored many players who in return become coaches after their playing days are over.  Some of his former players that became successful coaches are Mike Mururi, John Baraza, Francis Baraza, Fred Ambani and Tom Juma. “I make sure I am understood. You have to be very patient with those slow learners. One on one talks plus visual aid classes helps in removing uncertainties” Explains the Bandari FC Technical Director and former Coach of the team.

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