Tumo Mokone

Let’s have more African coaches

2010-01-15 12:57
Sport24 columnist Tumo Mokone (File)
Tumo Mokone

The Africa Cup of Nations currently on in Angola is holding several valuable lessons for African football. Chief among them is trust in African coaches, as well as belief in players who are still based on the continent.

While we enjoy the entertaining football being dished out by all the teams involved, and the spectacular goals – 17 from eight matches so far - we must take stock of how much home brewed talent is being used.

For starters, of the 16 teams in action only five are coached by African coaches. These are Shuaibu Amodu (Nigeria), Hassan Shehata (Egypt), Kinnah Phiri (Malawi), Rabah Saadane (Algeria) and Nigerian Stephen Keshi (Mali).

Whichever way you look at it, five is not enough. I would have been satisfied with at least 50-50 split, which to me would have affirmed the progress of African football. I don’t say foreign coaches should be done away with. However, their domination at this stage of the African game mocks the progress the continent has made in producing playing and coaching talent.

We are in the 27th edition of a tournament which was founded in the 1950s. For a long time ever since, African football needed foreign assistance in organizational and technical aspects, to effect growth. That help has achieved its goals: today footballers from Africa are in demand internationally, while the coaches do well in global events in age-limit competitions.

The most recent examples are Sellas Teteh and Nigeria’s John Obuh. Teteh led Ghana to the FIFA U-20 World Cup success last September, when they beat Brazil in the final. Obuh, though a late replacement as head coach, reached the final of the U-17 World Cup with Nigeria. The tournament was won by outsiders, Switzerland.

If younger African players can respond to technical input of fellow African coaches, then more senior players should adapt much easier, given their experience and maturity. The five above-mentioned countries therefore need to be commended for putting faith in local coaching talent, more so Mali, who looked elsewhere in west Africa for help.

There is urgent need to give more local mentors a chance to coach at elite level, and that applies to club football. It is therefore discouraging to hear club owners like the respected Kaizer Chiefs chairman, Kaizer Motaung, vowing that Africa has no coach suitable enough to coach his club.

He made this unfortunate statement after SA’s own champion coach, Gavin Hunt, was hotly tipped to take over the Amakhosi hot seat. Motaung supported his stance by importing a little-known young Serbian, Vladmir Vermezovic.

Only if Motaung would reveal his reasons for his deep-seated belief, maybe African coaches would improve on a crucial aspect of the game, which he and some of his ilk, seem to be privy to.

Through Angola 2010, some of the leading African teams have shown persistent lack of confidence in players still based on the continent. The likes of Nigeria would rather call injured, inactive or out of form players contracted to European clubs, than look at their own successful clubs like Enyimba for inspiration. There are more exceptional Nigerian players in places like Sudan and Egypt, but they will never be good enough for Super Eagles until they play overseas. Moroka Swallows’ Nigerian keeper Greg Etafia missed out of the AFCON squad to third choice keeper Austin Ejide, who plays for Hapoel Petah Tikva in Israel!

On form Nigerian strikers at Sudan’s Al-Merreikh, Endurance Idahor and Kelechi Osunwa, would at this stage, have offered Nigeria better options up-front, than the injured pair of Obafemi Martins and Osaze Odemwingie.

Other countries like Togo and Benin would rather go to small regional clubs in the lower divisions of France, than trust any of their nationals playing top level soccer in Africa.

Needless to say, the future of African football is right here on the continent. Here is hoping that by the time the next AFCON kicks off in Gabon in 2012, more African coaches would be in charge of the national teams.

Even more important, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, for example, should affirm existence of national leagues in their countries by including deserving home-based players, just like Egypt does.

In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy Angola 2010, and to support southern African teams – Angola, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. Though I have a feeling the Pharaohs of Egypt will retain the title, how sweet would it be if the championship was won by one of the four teams from the southern region – just for a change!


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