Wednesday, July 14, 2010

African football: a carbon copy of continent’s own economy?

from Jimmy Kainja's Blog -- source

"African footballers’ huge presence in the riches of European leagues is not accidental, they have the talent and they are very capable. The Economist recently had an audacity to suggest that footballers in Ivory Coast might yet overtake Cocoa as the country’s main domestic export product. Indeed, of the 23 Ivory Coast players at the tournament, only one plays in Ivory Coast. But why is it so hard for African teams to do well?

Like with economy, the answer to this question it depends on who you are listening to. In my view, football management on the continent has a lot to with it. Incompetent football associations coupled with distasteful mentality of the people in charge who wrongly believe that only foreign coaches are always the best has left the game in dire straits. Of the six African countries represented at the current tournament, only Algeria had an Algerian coach, Rabah Saadane. Ivory Coast had a Swede, Sven-Goran Eriksson. Another, Sweede, Lars Lagerback was in charge of Nigeria; Cameroon went for a Frenchman, Paul Le Guen and the hosts, South Africa settled for a Brazilian and former World Cup winning coach with Brazil in 1994, Carlos Alberto Parreira. Ghana opted for Milovan Rajevac, a Serbian national.

The logic behind the choices of these coaches is curious as is interesting. Ericksson, just as the rest of the group, is no doubt an experienced coach with a good record, especially in club football. Yet he was hired to manage Ivory Coast barely four months before the tournament. This means that he did not qualify the team to the tournament therefore he had little time to familiarise himself with it. Ericksson had earlier in qualifying rounds been sacked as a Mexico coach for the country’s bad performances that left Mexico in danger of failing to qualify to the tournament. Yet Ivory Coast found a saviour in him and eagerly discarded the manager who had qualified the team.

Nigeria sacked a Nigerian coach, Shaibu Amodu who qualified the team to the tournament and hired Lars Lagerback. Lagerback had failed to qualify his own country, Sweden to the same tournament. Unlike the two Swedes, Cameroon’s choice of Paul Le Guen made a bit of sense in that he could at least converse with the players as Cameroon is a French speaking country but he had never coached any African team before and he had unrealistically short time to organise a team, which again, a different coach qualified to the tournament.

South Africa’s choice of Carlos Alberto Perreira is understandable in that they gave him enough time to prepare for the tournament and being a former World Cup winning coach meant that his credentials were unquestionable. The same rings the truth for Ghana’s Milovan Rajevac who was given enough time to prepare the team - he managed to take Ghana to African Cup of Nations finals in January where they lost to Egypt in the finals. He was the only foreign coach among the African teams to have qualified the team himself. Interestingly, it is Ghana and South Africa of the six teams that have looked organised, failing to win games convincingly notwithstanding. Ghana have managed to qualify to the last 16 of the tournament without scoring a goal from an open play. They have scored on two goals on penalties.

Malawi national football team coach, Kina Phiri, a Malawian, recently told the BBC World Service that African must build trust in their own coaches and give them chance to prove themselves:

“It’s not fair for us African coaches not to be given a chance to run our own national teams because in the first place most of us are well trained, I trained in Britain; so to me I think it’s just because of our own mentality as Africans that we do not believe in our own people.”

Interestingly, the previous 18 World Cups tournaments have never been won by a foreign coach. In Africa, Egypt recently completed a hat trick of African Cup of Nations’ wins with an Egyptian coach, Hassan Shehata.

It is the same case with all the teams that are doing well at the tournament. They all have coaches from their own countries and they clearly know how to use the talent they have. On the other hand, African countries cannot use the vast pool of its former footballers and qualified coaches to coach their own countries. It is the same case that Africa does not use its resources for their own benefit yet always happy to receive handouts in the name of aid from the developed world.

African football will not improve with foreign coaches that have failed in their countries."

There is so much amazing in this article, I don't know where to begin. Although I knew about the lack of African coaches coaching the African sides, I did not know the history behind each coach and the extremely interesting tidbits/facts all throughout the article. Kina Phiri's quote is so accurate--many Africans just don't have faith in their capabilities. I loved the article until I got to this bit: "It is the same case that Africa does not use its resources for their own benefit yet always happy to receive handouts in the name of aid from the developed world." I thought that was a little unnecessary/irrelevant but truth hurts I guess!

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