Football coaches – yet another endangered species in Africa


CAIRO: The vagaries of coaching in Africa are well illustrated by the fact that only one of the 16 coaches at the African Nations Cup starting tomorrow was in charge of his team in the last tournament two years ago. 

Veteran French coach Roger Lemerre is, not surprisingly, a survivor from the 2004 Finals in Tunisia where he steered the host country to their first Nations title. 

The other sides returning to the tournament in Egypt or playing again after missing the 2004 Finals have new men at the helm, including Ghana's Ratomir Dujkovic, who was in charge of Rwanda two years ago. 

Continuity has never been a hallmark of African football and failure in competitions such as the Nations Cup is an almost certain guarantee of dismissal. 

There are various degrees of failure. 

Performances that in some countries might be considered a success are regarded in others as good cause for sacking. 

This was demonstrated at the 2002 Finals in Mali, the last Nations Cup to be played just six months before a World Cup. 

Nigeria finished third in that tournament, missing out on an appearance in the final only because of a controversial extra-time goal scored in a 2-1 semi-final defeat by Senegal. 

Yet failure cost Shaibu Amidu his job. 

Carlos Queiroz, now assistant coach at Manchester United, helped South Africa to qualify for the 2002 World Cup Finals and viewed the Nations Cup as nothing more than a good training exercise ahead of the trip to South Korea and Japan.  

Yet he was left with no choice but to resign when South Africa lost in the quarter-finals in Mali. 

French coach Henri Michel has good cause to view potential failure in Egypt with trepidation. He has twice lost previous jobs because of mediocre returns at the Nations Cup. 

In 2000, he left his job as coach of Morocco after they failed to make it past the first round. 

Two years later, he returned to the Finals at the helm of Tunisia and was due to take them to the 2002 World Cup Finals in Asia six months later. 

Tunisia failed to score in three matches and went home from the Mali tournament after failing to make the quarter-finals. Michel was fired shortly afterwards and missed out on the World Cup. 

Now Michel returns with Ivory Coast, who have also qualified for the World Cup in Germany. 

He knows that failure by the Ivorians to turn in a credible performance in Egypt will put his World Cup chances in dire straits again. – Reuters 

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