BY TERRY MADYAUTA
NEW FC Platinum head coach Hendrikus Pieter de Jongh arrives at a club that is already a giant in Zimbabwean football having won the last three consecutive Castle Lager Premier Soccer League titles.
Now the nomadic Dutchman — who has had stints in Kenya, Moldova, Romania, South Africa, Swaziland, Rwanda and his native Netherlands — wants to turn the three-time champions into a stylish football powerhouse in Southern Africa.
De Jongh’s bold declaration to turn FC Platinum into a regional giant might seem over-ambitious considering his unflattering record before his most recent job at Bulawayo giants Highlanders.
Until five months ago when he took over as Highlanders coach in mid-season before guiding the side to a solid finish in the league and the Chibuku Super Cup title, the 49-year-old well-travelled coach was yet to enjoy any meaningful success in his coaching career.
With the exception of leading Kenyan Premier League giants AFC Leopards to the final of the 2014 CECAFA Nile Basin Cup, where they were defeated by Ugandan side Victoria University, the nomadic De Jongh had never come close to winning any major silverware.
However, after having charmed the Bosso faithfuls during his three-month stay at the Bulawayo giants, De Jongh — who described his stint at Bosso as one of his greatest experiences in his coaching career — is eager to create more fond memories in Zvishavane.
The Dutchman could, however, face a tough task in his bid to transform FC Platinum into a force on the continent.
The Zvishavane side’s record on the African Safari, especially in the group stages of the CAF Champions League over the last two years, makes grim reading.
After a winless campaign in their maiden dance in the group stages, the platinum miners are virtually out of the current Champions League campaign after getting only one point in four matches.
Still, De Jongh believes he possesses the Midas touch to help FC Platinum excel on the African Safari.
He watched from grandstands when they drew 1-1 with eight-time African champions Al Ahly a week ago owing to work permit issues.
De Jongh told The Sport Hub in an interview on Thursday that his long-term goal is to make FC Platinum a Southern Africa powerhouse considering the resources and professionalism at the club.
“This is a professional club. They have what it takes to win trophies in Africa. They are professional in everything they do. They are advanced in and outside of the pitch, but I am here to add some flair. We want to play a good and attractive (brand of) football. We want to be the most offensive and passing football team,” De Jongh declared.
The former NAC Breda and Sparta Rotterdam coach, however, cautioned that it would be difficult to bring instant success to the club and pleaded for more time to implement his philosophy.
“We have to work with a vision for long-term goals because quick results are tantamount to failure, over-expecting also tends to risk disappointment.
“It will not be easy because there are many good teams in the league and so far I can tell you that the likes of Dynamos, Highlanders, Caps United, Chicken, Triangle and Manica Diamonds are very competitive. They will always give us a tough time,” he said.
Admitting that the Zimbabwean league is not as lucrative in terms financial returns, De Jongh says he admires the level of competition, and quality of players in the league.
“From what I read, what I saw, this league is very competitive and exciting. There are high levels of competition compared to the other leagues that I know in Africa.
“There are hard workers in this league, there are fighters who I saw, and in this league I think everyone is in the right direction. For now I will focus on retaining the PSL title, which is my first task.
“By the time we play in the Champions League again, I believe we will be ready to conquer and do better than the previous years.
“I know that I will get good results here, I did that at Highlanders. They were in the relegation road, but I brought good football and they ended on number six. We also won the Chibuku Super Cup.”
Born in Asperen, Gelderland, De Jongh, who was a central midfielder during his playing days, began his professional football career at NAC Breda, before moving to Sparta Rotterdam. His professional career was cut short at the age of 19 due to a serious ankle injury.
De Jongh then moved into coaching; beginning his managerial career at RKC Waalwijk as a youth coach, before becoming a youth coach for the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB).
“I started coaching in 1990 to 1994 as a youth coach when I stopped playing professional football after I had an ankle injury. Those days I played for two clubs — Sparta and NAC Breda in Holland — at the highest professional level of football.
“That was the starting point for my coaching career, where I started. I was a youth coach from 1990 to 1994,” said De Jongh.
After several stints with different clubs in his native Holland which included being one of Ronald Koeman’s assistant coaches at AZ Alkmaar, De Jong served as Moldova Under-23 coach and academy director of Romanian side Budapest Honvéd between 2012 and 2014.
His first job on the continent was at Kenyan Premier League side AFC Leopards in 2014 before he went on to be involved at the now-defunct South African side FC Cape Town, who were then plying their trade in the second-tier league.
He also had a short stint as the Eswatini national team head coach, and was at one point appointed technical director at the Rwandan FA, a position which he also assumed in 2010 for Mongolia.
Despite the all-glittering curriculum vitae, it remains to be seen if De Jongh will achieve more than his predecessor Norman Mapeza, who won two PSL titles and two Castle Challenge Cups.
With the Champions League expedition seemingly over, De Jongh’s first task will be to lead his side to the Castle Challenge Cup against his former paymasters Highlanders in the 2020 season opener.