Throughout the summer, SportingKCAcademy.com has published a series of Q&A interviews with each member of the Academy's technical staff. In the eighth and final installment, we catch up with Sporting KC U-17/19 head coach Rumba Munthali.
Where are you from?
I was born in Zambia but grew up in Toronto, Canada. Toronto is great city—very multicultural, very diverse, lots of ethnicities. Because of that, they have food from everywhere, so you can get African, Greek, Italian, authentic food, etc. To have that variety was great because I like to eat. I grew up there, and then I was recruited to the University of Alabama at Birmingham with Chris O’Neal, our U-15 coach. After college, I played professionally for 10 and a half years in the U.S., Canada and then I finished playing my last 5 and half years in China. When I retired, I moved back to Toronto before I came here to work for Sporting Kansas City.
What attracted you to soccer?
Being an immigrant to Canada, soccer was the first sport that I was drawn to. In Toronto, many people had immigrant parents, so a lot of their parents grew up playing soccer. It’s a huge sport and I always really, really enjoyed it. I played soccer and basketball, but soccer was the sport I really gravitated towards.
What makes the Sporting KC Academy so special?
It’s an academy focused on development of good players but also great people, and our roles as a club are very well defined. I think there’s a clear and realistic pathway of progression for the players coming through, from U-12 all the way up to the first team. I think we’re a club where the entire coaching staff is on the same page and working towards the same goal. There’s no distinction between Academy, the Swope Park Rangers and the first team. Everybody is focused on ensuring that everything we do ultimately makes the first team as successful as possible. I also love how much we get along as an academy staff. We are all very close. We spend a lot of time together, on the field, off the field, on the road, even with each other’s families. That makes for such a positive work environment.
What is your favorite part about being a coach?
What I enjoy the most is seeing the growth and progression of young players. Seeing them receive information, process that information and use that information and their own skills sets to figure out how to be successful. It’s nice to see how players develop as people and mature and to see their own personalities displayed on the field and off the field. It’s awesome to see young kids develop into young, mature, talented adults.
What’s great about our Academy is that from the U-12 to the U-19 levels, all of the coaches play a part in each player’s growth. You don’t just coach your own team, you help coach all the teams. Over the course of a year, all of the academy coaches run different sessions for teams in different age groups. Seeing their development from coming in as really, really young, tiny kids with limited information to 19-year-olds with a bunch of information is a joy to see. To play a part in that process is special, and we take pride in opening doors for them to achieve their dreams.
What is your favorite place in Kansas City?
I like the Plaza and the River Market. I like to go sit outside and eat with my wife and son, which is a favorite thing of mine to do. I live in Waldo and I like the diversity of the community. It’s a nice neighborhood. Kids are outdoors playing and lots of people are out running and being active. The Plaza, the River Market and Waldo—these are definitely my three favorites in Kansas City.
What was your favorite soccer club growing up?
Growing up I really liked Arsenal and their style of play. It was a team that had a strong representation of players from different places with different backgrounds. One of my favorite players from Arsenal was Thierry Henry. Now, I’m just interested watching good games. I also think now I watch games from a different perspective. It’s more about the learning experience now. I’m drawn to different aspects of the game such as formations, patterns, coaching decisions, player decisions and other things that may be relevant to me as an educator.
My son likes soccer even though he just 2 years old. He’s really into soccer, Sporting, the stadium and games—he seems to love everything about it. That’s all he wants to do for now. I’d like for him to find his passion as he grows up, and it doesn’t need to be soccer, just anything that makes him happy and something that he wants to devote his time to. Whatever his passion will be, I will support him. What was great about my household is that my parents let me decide on what I wanted to do and what goals I wanted to pursue. The drive came from me, not my parents. That’s how I want to raise my son now.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Everybody here makes fun of me because I drink a lot of Coca-Cola. As Coach Declan (Jogi) would say, that’s my “special-special”. Sometimes I get the staff members to drink it with me so I don’t feel so bad. I also owe Daniel Salloi a Coke because his team recently beat mine in soccer tennis.
What is your favorite movie?
I love sci-fi and comic book stuff—The Avengers, Star Wars, etc.
Do you sing in the shower?
Because of my son, I find myself signing cartoon theme songs from The Magic School Bus and Paw Patrol. They end up popping into my head a lot.
What is your favorite place you have visited?
I really liked Brazil and Rio de Janeiro. It was beautiful, and to see how much the people were into soccer was pretty cool. That’s a place I would definitely like to see more of. The place I haven’t been but I’d like to go is France. I have a history degree, so I’d love to go and learn more about the history and culture.
Munthali with Sporting players Ilie Sanchez and Rodney Wallace