Zambia have sacked manager Dario Bonetti just two days after the country qualified for the African Nations Cup under his stewardship. Bonetti's demise comes a day after senior players voiced concerns about the quality of their coach, complained about his methods and said they did not trust his leadership.
Zambia won four of their six qualifying matches, over Mozambique and Comores, but lost to Libya in Tripoli before that country's revolution and were held to a draw by the north Africans at home at the weekend. The Chipolopolo scored 11 goals in the campaign and conceded only two, but, in a performance review done by the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), were deemed capable of better.
In an emergency meeting held on Monday, FAZ decided to sack Bonetti in order to push the national team onto the next level. "Though the team has qualified, there's still more that the team can give. The team has more potential than that," Kalusha Bwalya, FAZ President said. "We will go back to the drawing board, consult with stakeholders and make necessary changes in due course."
Following the match against Libya, FAZ general secretary George Kasengele said his organisation would not rush into making a decision about the coaches future, but FAZ performed a u-turn after hearing the concern of senior players. Speaking on condition of anonymity, players told the Lusaka Times that Bonetti only held single training sessions before big matches and was guilty of poor team selections.
"It will be a disaster to go with coach Bonetti to the Africa Cup," one player said. "The truth must be told that Zambia's qualification is not because of him but it is because of the collective efforts of us players. After realising that the coach was not taking us anywhere, we took it upon ourselves to ensure we qualify"
Another player fuelled the fire by saying the team needed a different coach. "We can do better with a good coach," he said. "What is happening is sad and we don't think we'll do anything at the Africa Cup if the situation remains the same." Zambia's players have expressed satisfaction with the work of assistant coach Honour Janza, but as yet, there is no indication of who will take over. The players are determined to get someone who will help them climb the ladder to glory at the African Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Zambia's best finish at the continental championship has been as runners-up in 1974 and 1994, but they have never won the title. Without heavyweights Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria in the 2012 edition of the tournament, they see it as their best chance to go all the way.
Bonetti was appointed coach of Zambia in July last year and succeeded Frenchman Herve Renaud. It was his first position in charge of a national team, having previously managed second division clubs in Italy and Romanian club Dinamo Bucharesti. He had been sacked from his previous two positions before joining Zambia.
Although FAZ said the decision to part ways with Bonetti was by mutual consent, the Italian denied it and indicated that he wanted to stay on. He dedicated the ANC qualification to the people of Zambia and said he was pleased with the work he did there.
"I'm happy and our record in the last 15 games speaks for itself, one of the best in Africa," Bonetti said. "I enjoyed working with this team. We contributed positively and we have worked very well. Nobody can discount this. I want to stay happy and leave with fond memories of my time here. I hope we can close the contract properly."