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The recent dismissals and replacements of German coaches Gernot Rohr and French coaches Hubert Velud and Didier Six, a few weeks before the African Cup of Nations (CAN) football, confirmed a trend of recent months. Rather than bringing in a foreigner, the Nigerian, Sudanese and Guinean football federations have appointed Nigerian Augustine Eguavoen, Sudanese Burhan Tia and Guinean Kaba Diawara respectively.
The presence of these three technicians in Cameroon, where the 33and edition of the CAN, proves that African federations have more confidence in locals: fifteen of the twenty-four national teams qualified for the tournament are led by an African coach. In the previous edition, in 2019 in Egypt, this was only the case for eleven of the twenty-four teams.
But the final had opposed Algeria, led by Algerian Djamel Belmadi, to Senegal, led by Senegalese Aliou Cissé. The victory of Algeria (1-0) allowed Djamel Belmadi to be the first coach local to lead his team to the top, since Stephen Keshi’s Nigeria in 2013.
» I think it had a certain impact, even if Belmadi was born in France, therefore binational, and graduated as a coach in France, which is also the case for Cissé, notes Ali Fergani, former Algerian international (72 caps between 1973-1986) who became Fennecs coach (1995-1996 and 2004-2005). From now on, African federations want to trust locals more to train the selections. »
« The emergence of a generation embodied by Cissé and Belmadi necessarily created momentum », supports Michel Dussuyer. For the former French coach of Benin, also spent on the benches of Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, “it is quite normal that more Africans are coaching on their continent, especially when they have the skills to do so”.
« Reactive Debate »
“The level of training has improved a lot in recent years.born », continues Ali Fergani, who “welcomes the initiative of CAF [Confédération africaine de football] to open training courses for African coaches, some of whom managed big clubs before becoming coaches”. CAF has decided to create specific training for African coaches under the name « CAF license », in order to“raise the level of local technicians”, as the Angolan Raul Chipenda, then director of development for the body, had specified.
This increased use of breeders from the country in question can, however, also be of a “conjunctural” nature. A federation may thus be tempted to respond to a certain pressure from supporters and the press. Especially when the results are not up to expectations, while the selection is led by a foreigner.
“There is always a reactive debate in relation to the performance of a selection. It will therefore be necessary to observe whether it is a lasting or temporary phenomenon. emphasizes Michel Dussuyer. “What counts is competence. If African technicians have the level, we must give them a chance. But putting a place that doesn’t have it, just to please some people, is of no interest”, says, for his part, Ferdinand Coly, the former defender of the Senegal team (28 selections).
“You have to remember that foreign coaches have made certain teams progress a lot,” he also insists, citing, in the case of Senegal, “ Frenchman Bruno Metsu, who [leur] made it possible to reach the CAN final against Cameroon in 2002 [défaite 0-0, 2-3 t.a.b.] and the quarter-finals of the World Cup the same year against Turkey [défaite 0-1] « .
Ali Fergani holds the same speech. If he considers « that there were perhaps too many foreign breeders in Africa at one time », the former Fennecs midfielder does not want to minimize the contribution of some of them: “They were able to bring their experience, their expertise, because they received quality training, particularly in Europe. As many of them had local assistants, the latter were able to learn. »
Profession particularly exposed
Being a coach of a national team when you are from the country can however involve some differences in « treatment ». Especially when it comes to salary. “A local is often cheaper. We are not going to pay the same to a Frenchman who has a track record and references as to a local who has not had the same experience, says an agent, on condition of anonymity. With more or less equal skills, when a foreigner will earn for example 20,000 euros, the national will receive half, and even less. »
» The appointment of an African can no doubt be motivated, in some cases, by economic issues,” assumes Ferdinand Coly. Governments are often the ones who cover the coach’s salary with public money, since many federations do not have total financial autonomy. « With equal skills, the salary must be the same », argues Michel Dussuyer.
For a local coach, you also have to be ready to « dealing with pressure, criticism, people trying to interfere with your work », emphasizes Ferdinand Coly. This is true in any country in the world where football has an important place in society. But even more in Africa, where the profession of coach is particularly exposed. “For an African, who lives in his country, it is more difficult than for a foreigner who is only passing through. We won’t give him any gifts on the pretext that he’s from the area, « continues Ferdinand Coly.
“It is for these reasons that training is necessary: having been a player, even international, will not make you a good coach, explains Michel Dussuyer. A player must only think of himself, while a coach must take care of a workforce, a technical staff, an entire environment, remain attentive to his freedom to work. And all this is learned during training. »
In 2019, the weeks following the CAN had been marked by many coach changes. The wave had spared neither locals nor expatriates. We will have to see if the 2022 edition follows a different course.