The meteoric rise of African coaches towards Afcon 2021

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For the first time in more than a half century there will be a significant majority of African coaches in charge of teams at January 2022’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon.

The qualification of Sierra Leone under John Keister last month meant 14 of the 24 team at the finals will be handled by a local coach, barring any sudden change of heart by football federations to change personnel.

It is a significant swing in favour of locals, who have been long overshadowed by foreign coaches from Europe at the finals.

The 2002 finals in Mali was the last time there were more African coaches than foreigners, but then, in a 16-team field, there was an almost even split with nine Africans and seven expatriates.

Not since 1965 in Tunisia, when all six finalists were handled by locals, has there been such a large percentage of African mentors, in what will be seen as a vote of confidence in local talent.

Countries like Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea and Mali, whose recent previous appearances at the finals have been with a foreign coach in charge, have changed tack and opted for locals.

The debate over a lack of opportunity for African coaches in their own countries has long been a passionate one with many believing federations tend towards foreigners when appointing coaches.

Others believe that the status of African coaches is still low and they do not get the same respect from players as an outside coach does, but things seem to be changing bit by bit.

Of the 32 past editions of the Cup of Nations, only six have seen African coaches dominate. There have been eight tournaments were the split was even, but 18 where non-African coaches were in majority on the bench. This includes the last seven, stretching back to 2008.

The statistics are for coaches in charge at the start of a tournament as there have been finals when there has been a change during the tournament.

At the last finals in Egypt in 2019, 15 of the 24 coaches were foreign. In 2015 in Equatorial Guinea, only three of the 16 finalists had locals in charge.

Claude Le Roy has the record for coaching at the finals having led six different teams at nine tournaments, followed by Henryk Kasperczak (seven), Michel Dussuyer (six), Herve Renard (six), Alain Giresse (five) and Henri Michel (five). All are French, including the former Polish international Kasperczak, who became a French citizen after starting his coaching career there.

That compares to just three tournaments for several African coaches, a record shared by Mahmoud Al Gohari, CK Gyamfi, Florent Ibenge, Fred Osam Duodu, Rabah Saadane and Hassan Shehata, who won all three of his appearances. Guinea Bissau coach Baciro Cande is due to coach at a third successive tournament in January.

On the winning front, 17 Cup of Nations have been won by African coaches and 16 by foreigners with Algeria’s Djamel Belmadi tipping the balance in favour of the locals at the last edition in Egypt and strengthening the argument in favour of more Africans in the coaching hot seat.

Algeria: Djamel Belmadi (local)

Burkina Faso: Kamou Malo (local)

Cameroon: Toni Conceicao (Portugal)

Cape Verde Islands: Pedro ‘Bubista’ Leitao (local)

Comoros Islands: Amir Abdou (local)

Egypt: Hossam El Badry (local)

Equatorial Guinea: Juan Micha (local)

Ethiopia: Wubetu Abate (local)

Gabon: Patrice Neveu (France)

The Gambia: Tom Saintfiet (Belgium)

Ghana: Charles Akonnor (local)

Guinea: Didier Six (France)

Guinea Bissau: Baciro Cande (local)

Ivory Coast: Patrice Beaumelle (France)

Malawi: Meke Mwase (local)

Mali: Mohamed Magassouba (local)

Mauritania: Corentin Martins (France)

Morocco: Vahid Halilhodzic (Bosnia)

Nigeria: Gernot Rohr (Germany)

Senegal: Aliou Cisse (local)

Sierra Leone: John Keister (local)

Sudan: Hubert Velud (France)

Tunisia: Mondher Kebaier (local)

Zimbabwe: Zdravko Logarusic (Croatia)

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By FARPost reporter