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Kaetu Smith: “I am a good coach”

Ralph Geeplay 
Lone Star head coach Kaetu Smith is expected to face a decisive moment of his coaching career, when his team meets the Nigerian Super Eagles this weekend in Monrovia. This is clearly a Goliath vs. David encounter that will put to test the coaching skills of Smith, who is expected to take his sling against the well-amoured star-studded Nigerian team led by the former Nigerian skipper Stephen Keshi.

Smith was hired after the Italian Roberto Landi suddenly lost his job, when the Eagle squad led by Keshi trounced the Lone Stars by 2-0 in Monrovia at the Antoinette Tubman stadium in May this year.   Amongst those recommended after Coach Landi lost his job were the South Korea outstanding Coach Huh Jung – Moo, the Nigerian tactician Sampson Siasia, Liberian trainer Thomas Kodjo, and the Swedish handler Sven Sjunssen. Smith beat them all to the mark!

Coach Smith’s appointment was controversial from the beginning. Liberians expressed a sense of disappointment in the Liberian Football Association’s decision to appoint him head coach. Prominent among them was Africa’s soccer king George Weah.

The three-time African footballer of the year, and the only African to win the European footballer award said, “I don’t know Smith. I know Thomas Kodjo quite alright and his qualities. I can’t still understand why he was sacked and replaced by Kodjo,”  Weah told the BBC. Kodjo was the Lone Star interim head who beat the Namibian warriors in Monrovia. That victory is said to be the prime reason Liberia is facing the Super Eagles today, according to reports.
George Weah, also voted the African footballer of the century said “I think that choice, that decision from the Football Association was a mistake and not a good choice for us and our football.”

Smith shot back immediately reminding Liberians and George Weah that he was a first-rate coach as anywhere on the planet to be found. He also said: “As for the comment of George Weah, it is his opinion; but I can tell him that I am not a low-level coach, but a good coach.”

Coach Smith, football analysts say should prove right that assertion in Monrovia on Saturday when he battled Steven Keshi and the Super Eagles for the first leg of the Afcons qualification ticket. During the 1990s, Smith managed Liberian club sides Baccus Marine and LPRC Oilers, before spending much of his time abroad to hone his coaching pedigree.

The Liberian manager is said to be a disciplinarian with an eye for talent. Smith who owns a Fifa license certificate A, in a recent interview was unfazed by Nigeria’s top gun player and the blitz they intend to bring to Monrovia on the 8th of September. “Nigeriain isn’t like before; they are living in the past. If Guinea could qualify at their expense in the last Afcons qualifier, Liberia can do same too.”

Such optimism needs to be received with caution, according to analyst. However, Nigerian players are playing in top European leagues and their players are scoring and are in good form.
But his warning to the Nigerians, others say, must not be taken lightly given that he has tinkered with the Lone Star team by bringing in young players, while concentrating on ball possessions, a tight defense and keeping faith in aggressive strikers.

The Monrovia derby between the two West African countries for the South African 2013 representation in the Afcon qualification final round should test Smith tactically, and should confirm his statements that indeed he’s a “good coach.”

As a warning to the Nigerians, Coach Smith recently sent the Malawian Flames packing when his side notched them 1-0 in Monrovia, in anticipation of the head-to-head battle with Steven Keshi on Saturday.

Ralph Geeplay can be reached at akklamm@gmail.com

 

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