Proudly African: Why give indigenous coaches a fair chance

November 30, 2013 8:29 PM

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Proudly African: Why give indigenous coaches a fair chance

Of the five coaches who have guided African sides to the 2014 Fifa World Cup, only two -Ghana's Kwesi Appiah and Stephen Keshi of Nigeria - are of the local breed. With just months to go before the 20th Mundial’s commencement, however, rife speculation has it that certain powerful elements in either west African country seek to contrive to rob these two accomplished gentlemen of the wholesome satisfaction sleepless nights spent drafting call-up lists and formulating tactics should entitle them to.

Suddenly, successful coaches who had few challenges navigating passage to world football's showpiece event require expatriate technical directors.

Appiah, who masterminded the most impressive qualifying campaign of them all, had spent years serving as an assistant to foreign handlers of the Black Stars. Having earned his wings, the 53-year-old stepped up in April 2012 to take up the senior national managerial post and, clearly, the benefits of the mentoring he has enjoyed from the likes of Claude Le Roy, Milovan Rajevac, and Goran Stevanovic has been evident. Hence, as far as most Ghanaians are concerned, Appiah is done understudying and certainly is big enough to take decisions.

Keshi, the more experienced of the pair, has been through this sheer lack of regard and ingratitude before. In 2002, as assistant to countryman Shaibu Amodu, the duo was brutally kicked before they could savour the World Cup dream they had brought to fruition for Nigeria.

The only respite was that Amodu's replacement, Nigerian Festus Onigbinde, was cut from their own cloth, albeit one who had sown little where his rather fortuitous appointment would permit him to reap.

The next time the Super Eagles were due for a World Cup appearance was some eight years later, and Amodu, earlier the victim, was the architect once more. And yet the scenario played itself all over again, almost like a twisted case of deja-vu, when Amodu was axed ahead of South Africa 2010 for eking another Nations Cup bronze to the medal cabinet of Nigeria earlier that year. This time, though, the late substitute was a Swede, Lars Lagerback.

Four years prior to Amodu's second disappointment, Keshi himself was struck square on the jaw with a similar fate. Unfancied Togo had just secured a World Cup ticket under Keshi's watch, yet a dismal showing at CAN 2006 in Egypt had earned him something he never truly deserved: the sack. Replaced promptly by German-born African football 'savant' Otto Pfister, Keshi was left dejected, aggrieved, and his face dripping with thick, yellow egg yolk.

Thus, you would think 'The Boss' has been through enough to appear streetwise and hardened in that regard. And indeed he has, if his words in a recent interview regarding the possibility of being sacked yet again ahead of the next edition of the planet's grandest soccer show are anything to go by.

"This job is all about hiring and firing. When I was sacked in 2002 it came as a terrible shock but that is life, we all moved on because you can't keep living in anger and disappointment,” Keshi told the BBC. "I don't live in fear [of getting the sack]," he adds. "To be honest, it is just a waste of energy. It is energy-sapping.”

And what if he would merely be provided with a [foreign] technical director to superintend him at Brazil 2014? "I don't need any foreign technical assistance to guide the Super Eagles to perform well at the World Cup so if one is suggested I will politely reject the offer because I already have capable assistants working with me."

All that conviction, in spite of the fact that his backroom staff and himself are being owed seven months' worth in salaries, even after winning the African Cup of Nations in February this year.

Kwesi Appiah is not any less ambiguous about his desires ahead of the World Cup when expressing his wishes in response to rumoured threats to the free hand he enjoys as coach of Ghana.

“We have been saying all along that, given support and opportunity from football authorities, local coaches will deliver credible results," Appiah was recently quoted as telling Caf's official website.

And, for good measure, he gives his Nigerian compatriot a merited name-check, perhaps realizing just how identical their circumstances are.

"What has happened to Keshi with Nigeria and now with me and Ghana [gives me great pleasure]."


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