Who is ... Philippe Troussier?

“White Witchdoctor” in the hot seat

Although his appointment as South Africa’s national soccer team’s full-time coach was greeted with mixed feelings by the football fraternity, Frenchman Philippe Troussier is adamant that he can do a good job.

Troussier was appointed last Saturday as the man to succeed Clive Barker and lead Bafana Bafana to the World Cup in June and beyond. He takes over the hottest seat in South African football from March 1.

Kaizer Chiefs director of coaching, and the man who led South Africa to its return to international football in 1992, Stanley “Screamer” Tshabalala, was very angry about the appointment and said: “White always wins, every time.”

Soccer official Lionel Mabaso was sceptical about the appointment: “I don’t think it was a good move. I think the guy was a failure when he was at Chiefs.”

But Troussier is not concerned about these negative and offensive statements about him; he believes he is the right person for the job.

It is widely believed that his vast experience in African football and his track record as a coach were the deciding factors.

Troussier is arguably one of the most experienced foreign coaches in African football, having coached on the continent for almost a decade.
He is presently coaching Burkina Faso until the end of the African Cup of Nations in February.

Born 43 years ago in Paris, Troussier started coaching at the age of 28 in his native France in 1983. He spent four years in the Ivory Coast, where he coached the national team in 1993 and was in charge of top club Asec Abidjan for three years. During his three-year stay at Asec Abidjan he never lost a league game.

While coaching in Morocco, he won the Moroccan Cup with FUS Rabat.

During that time he also took the Olympic champions - Super Eagles of Nigeria - through the World Cup qualifying rounds before leaving the team because the minister of sport interfered too much in his work.

“If authorities interfere with his job, he’s prepared to break off everything,” explained his agent, Mamadou Gaye. “Surely his record speaks for itself.”

Throughout Africa, Troussier is known for his ability to scout talented youngsters and mould them into superstars.

South African stars like Jacob Tshisevhe, Thabang Lebese and Thabo Mooki, who are all on the verge of being selected for the national side, made their debuts under Troussier while still at Chiefs.

Gaye said Troussier would give the youngsters a chance to prove themselves and would put superstars who were not prepared to work hard on the bench, “as he did in Nigeria when he benched Victor Ikpeba and Austin OJay Jay’ Okocha”.

He dismissed suggestions that Troussier would have to start from scratch because he does not know South African soccer. “He’s been following South African football with great interest and is glad to be back. South Africa is like his second home,” said Gaye.

According to Troussier, South Africa has talent and potential but lacks discipline. His first priority will be to instil that discipline and his ambition is to take Bafana Bafana to greater heights, eventually making them a force to be reckoned with in African football.

He is no stranger to South African football. Three seasons ago he coached Kaizer Chiefs for nine months.

It was during this short spell with the “Phefeni Glamour Boys” that the South African football-loving public dubbed him the “White Witchdoctor” because of his strange and almost impossible tactics.

He was the first coach in South Africa to introduce the 3-5-2 player formation.

Troussier holds a diploma in sports teaching, a French coaching licence - third degree - and is a qualified physiotherapist.

His dedication and commitment to the sport were rewarded when he was appointed as the official representative of the French Football Federation’s national technical board at the 1992 African Nations Cup finals in Senegal. One of his duties was to draw up a detailed report of the finals.

“Tactically and technically he’s good,” concluded Gaye.

Troussier could not be reached at the time of going to press as he was busy preparing Burkina Faso for their friendly match against Mozambique.

Vital Statistics

Born: March 21 1955, in France Nickname: White Witchdoctor Defining Characteristics: Ambitious, confident and disciplined Ambition: To make Bafana Bafana a force to be reckoned with in African socce

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