Former Cameroon goalkeeper Joseph Antoine Bell, who was known as “Nelson Mandela” during his playing days, has lashed out at club owners and federations across the continent for their inability to shed their colonial mentality as they continue to hire expatriate coaches.
At least 23 coaches in charge of national teams during African Nations Cup qualifiers last week were local and 30 teams were under the tutelage of expatriate coaches, the majority of them from France.
“We keep saying we are advancing in technology and in many other spheres,” lamented Bell, “but a look at the men in charge of national teams across Africa tells a different story. We still suffer from the colonial mentality and seem to respect a man’s pigmentation more than his true abilities.
“I am including my own federation, Cameroon. They have never really given local coaches an opportunity to take charge of the Indomitable Lions. And yet, indigenous coaches know the conditions better, they relate better to players, but for some reason we seem to glorify expatriates, some of whom come with dubious backgrounds.”
Botswana became the first country to qualify for next year’s African Nations Cup tournament — under a Motswana, Stanley Tshosane. It’s a credit to the Botswana Football Association, which has always encouraged and employed local coaches, with Major David Bright and Ghanaian Ben Kofi among the previous coaches of the Zebras.
Yet, the president of the Cameroon Football Federation, Iya Mohammed, disagrees with the popular view that local coaches are not given enough opportunities. He believes they are the victims of their own creation, not equipping themselves adequately to take charge of a squad of high-profile individuals.
“For example,” said Mohammed, “look at what Samuel Eto’o has achieved on the world stage. He is an awe-inspiring individual. Imagine hiring a local coach who is himself awed by Eto’o. You expect him to discipline Eto’o. It won’t work. We need an equally high-profile coach who will be able to handle players with big egos like Eto’o.”
Mohammed’s sentiments were supported by Côte d’Ivoire Football Association president Jacques Anouma, who said the country’s squad was packed with big-name players like Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Dider Zokora, Aruna Dindane, to mention just a few, and the team needed a strong coach who would not bat an eyelid about dispensing discipline, irrespective of who the recipient might be.
It’s a fair point, yet Bell said federations across the continent respect European coaches more. In addition, they offered foreign coaches the best working conditions, while not providing the same support systems for local coaches.
“It is like if you are local they set you up to fail,” he said. “They do not pay a local coach the same salary and I know of a German coach who was in charge of the Nigerian national team. The man stayed in Germany and came to Nigeria only a week before the national team’s matches and was paid an obscene amount of money. That’s ridiculous.”
On the subject of Nigeria, they have taken a wise decision in appointing former player Samson Siasia, who led them to a resounding 4-0 victory in the African Nations Cup qualifier over the weekend and a 3-0 triumph over Kenya in a friendly game on Tuesday.
And, while Ghana reached dizzy heights under Serbian coaches, South Africa achieved their greatest triumphs under local coaches, with Clive Barker winning gold in 1996, Jomo Sono silver in 1998 and Trott Moloto bronze in 2000. The country went through its worst period under foreign coaches, with the spell under Brazilian Joel Santana the lowest in its history.
“I salute Moise Katumbi Chapwe, the club president of TP Mazembe for employing Senegalese Lamine N’Diaye, who took the club to the finals of the Fifa World Club championships,” said Bell. “If anything, N’Diaye showed the world that Africans have the ability and expertise. All they need are opportunities and the right support for them to shine.”
And until their shocking start to this year’s qualifier for next year’s African Nations Cup in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, Egypt were pound for pound the best team on the continent, under the local former army general, Hassan Shehata, winning the biennial tournament a record three successive times.