Sunday, March 14, 2010

Africa and Its Foreign Coach Preoccupation

It's not just Africa. Asia is pretty deeply into this. The Middle East, too.

"It" being a preoccupation with the idea of a foreign coach running the national team. Africa has a bad case of it. Perhaps the worst, especially in World Cup years ... and with teams that have made the World Cup.

The Johannesburg Times, my favorite South African newspaper, has done a think piece on the topic of African nations being unwilling to hire African coaches.

Of the six African teams in South Africa 2010, guess how many hail from Africa? Go ahead. Guess.

Did I hear "one" somewhere in the back? Well, sir, you are correct. One. Of Six.

That would be Rabah Saadane of Algeria. Mr. Saadane is from Algeria. Yes. And somehow Algeria made the World Cup, despite the burden of not having a non-African coach.

Africa is just mad about European coaches. And the occasional Brazilian.

Cameroon has Paul Le Guen, a Frenchman.

Ghana has Milovan Rajevac, a Serb.

Nigeria has Lars Lagerback, a Swede.

South Africa has Carlos Alberto Parriera, a Brazilian.

And Ivory Coast had Vahid Halilhodzic, a Bosnian, until a few minutes ago, when the Elephants fired him. They took a run at Guus Hiddink, a Dutchman, and now are considering Philippe Troussier, a Frenchman. With Sven-Goran Eriksson, a Swede, in the wings.

The Joburg Times has some interesting stats in its "foreign coaches" story.

One of them: When SA2010 begins in three months, 36 African teams will have qualified for the finals in World Cup history ... and only 11 of them will have shown up with an African coach.


One really interesting quote on the topic, from a former Cameroon national team player, Joseph Antoine Bell: "I wish someone could explain why, after 60 years of independence, 60 years of football, a child (in Africa) has not been born who has played football and is deemed able to understand football like a European."

An interesting sidelight to this: Africa so often is so keen to shed any ties to its colonial past. Changing the names of cities, or the countries themselves. Changing street names.

But when it comes to soccer coaches, it's like it's 1930 all over again, and Africans don't seem to believe they can do it as well as Europeans. Rather curious, but not new, and not changing.

Unless, maybe Saadane and Algeria have a great World Cup.

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