Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The future Bafana Bafana coach - African or not, or it does not matter?

Football administrators of Africa, take solace, you are not alone. At the end of the 2014 Fifa World Cup, half of the coaches who took teams there lost their jobs. Some had been with their teams for a long time while others reaped what they never sowed. Noble is the idea that teams look to set up structures leading to the next tournament, Russia 2018.

Look, Germany used the long standing Jurgen Klinsman’s assistant, Joachim Loew as head coach over two Fifa World Cups, seeing his project to fruition. Brazil appointed Dunga as a successor to his predecessor, well almost. Filipe Scolari replaced Mano Menezes whose short stinct followed that of the former captain after the elimination from the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Dunga had replaced Scolari prior to that.

If the Big Phil was not good enough then, what had changed? After that Dunga dismissal for poor performance, what has since changed? Time will tell, but among the 200 milion football crazy population, is there no one with the ability to take them to another level? I thought such impulsive behaviour was patented by Africans.

Given that South Africa will be announcing their own coach at the weekend, one wonders who that lucky guy is. Danny Jordaan speaks the language and I have always admired him and took him as one who walks that talk. SAFA never gave an official list of candidates under considerations and speculation is awash with foreigners.

That can only be security for failure to win the 2018 Russia Fifa World Cup as the championship is ever won by teams with indigenous coaches. In any case, the majority of nations enjoyed better success with home grown coaching stuff.

South Africa’s own records tell the tale, notably the only AFCON victory of 1996 under Clive Barker. Up north, Zimbabwe hired and paid handsome sums to expats, but it took Sunday Marimo in 2004 and Charles Mhlauri in 2006 to take the Warriors to AFCON.

Further north, the same happened with Malawi. TheFlames qualified for AFCON in 1984 under Henry Moyo and with Kinnah Phiri in 2010. Ghana has won the tournament four times, with a local coach guiding the team on all the four occasions.

The most successful football team in the AFCON history is Egypt who won the trophy seven times, mainly with local coaches. Ali Hassan Shehata did so thrice in succession from 2006, 2008 until 2010 when a foreign coach I regarded highly took them to the doldrums. The list of successful stories is endless.

What then makes the non-African coaches attractive given their poor record? They train in the same countries and do the courses that the Africans attend. The course contents are the same and many do not outperform local coaches in these courses anyway.

There is a school of thought that players offer greater respect to foreigners, particularly whites. If true, it means the administrators hiring these coaches subscribe to the same mentality. My observation has been that they are revered by the bosses and whatever these coaches say or need goes. Little attention is given to the requirements of locals. That attitude eats away the respect the players have for the coach.

Players need someone knowledgeable. Their confidence in their coach lies nowhere but in the oozing proficiency of the professional. If the president and secretary of the association take their man lightly, so will the players. As much as the salaries are a confidential issue, the players know. The peanuts that the African coaches get erode any respect the players have for the coach.

One muted idea of having a foreign coach boarded around the respect and fear the African referees have for the whites. If the match officials are that stupid, it could be better to import them from overseas. During a final qualifier between Cameroon and Zimbabwe in Younde, the year 1994, one Reinhard Fabisch got incensed by the obvious biased officiating and tore a $100 bill in-front of the commissioner, earning himself a hefty fine coupled with a suspension.

His white skin could not even earn a draw that Zimbabwe needed to kiss the USA ’94 tournament. The continent has always been encouraged to emancipate itself from mental slavery as none but itself can free its mind. However, the destruction of its football has been its quest for glory and its poverty.  

There is always doubt over the quality of coaches who come to Africa from Europe. They do not make the cut in the leagues that matter, the league where the best of African players ply their trades. It is in these leagues, where the African coaches who believe in their abilities, break the banks and pay for the tuition and flights to acquire the same knowledge, and then come to Africa and remain redundant.

Locally, in Gavin Hunt, Roger De Sa and Pitso Mosemane, Bafana would be well catered for. The South Africa media usually plot the downfall of local coaches, the same way the English destroy their own Three Lions. There are a few more South Africans with the ability to take charge of the team, provided they are armed with the authority to control every detail of the team by the association.

If the continent’s best players can fit in any team in the world, so can the coaches. The world is not ready, and will never be ready to afford an African coach a Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus job. There shall never be a time in the history of human life when Shakes Mashaba, Riccardo Mannet, Norman Mapeza or Jamhuri Kihwelo will be considered to coach England or Spain. Never.

African associations must bring in extremely qualified and knowledgeable coach educators from abroad to uplift the upcoming coaching and desist from their reliance on the expat coaches. Given that coaches are the most recyclable items on the planet, it may be the joy to pull people down, as results have nothing to do with denying locals opportunities as head national coaches.