Africa's solution is not in foreign coaches

Celestine Karoney

With Russia 2018 over, I am beginning to think Africa must start consulting the football gods over the next four years in preparation for the next World Cup - if we are to avoid a tiresome last two weeks of the World Cup with no team to support, that is.

During the group stages, I tweeted that when the World Cup comes around Africa is a country. Someone challenged me though, wondering why Africans feel the need to own each other's success.

My answer? Africans are starved of football success despite boasting a rich talent base and we are happy to identify with whoever brings us the success.

Even the great Pele thought that by now an African country would have lifted the World Cup, so you can imagine how devastating it has been to miss out on the second round for the first time since 1982.

When Senegal delivered the first win for the continent's representatives in Russia, they raised up our hopes - with echoes of 2002 - while also thrusting coach Aliou Cisse into the spotlight.

Unfortunately, there was no repeat of the Teranga Lions' debut but people on the continent did start returning to that eternal local-versus-foreign coach debate.

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Should African countries revert to indigenous coaches?

First things first, there is definitely a case for keeping it domestic when it comes to national teams - no foreigner has ever won the World Cup.

Twelve of the 32 teams arrived in Russia with a foreign coach, with Tunisia's Nabil Maaloul the sole other indigenous coach from Africa, but only one reached the quarter-finals (Belgium).

But it would be remiss to compare these countries with Africa since their football development is worlds apart.

When Germany announced Joachim Low would keep his job despite a disastrous World Cup campaign for the 2018 champions, one African fan tweeted that African FA's should borrow a leaf out of that book.

For nearly a century, Germany has had only ten coaches - which is in stark contrast to many countries in Africa where coaches are fired before having time to build consistency.

Coaches are rated by the results of their teams and a winning CV attracts the best of suitors.

Ahmed Musa and Stephen Keshi
Stephen Keshi is the only African to lead a team to the Round of 16 at a World Cup

In Africa, FA's tend to favour hiring expatriates.

Advocates of foreign coaches argue that they are more knowledgeable, better exposed, more professional, command players' respect and will not be drawn into local politics. But they are costly and often FA's turn to governments for funding just to afford them.

Foreigners are also thought to lack sentiment for the team because, after all, it's just a job so why not keep it within the borders?

Well, while local coaches understand the football culture better, speak the local dialect and definitely come cheaper, do they have the capacity to deliver results at the global stage?

The late Stephen Keshi is the only African to have led a team to the Round of 16 at the World Cup, as he did in 2014, and Africa has appeared at that stage on ten separate occasions.

France coach Didier Deschamps
France's 2018 success continued the record of the World Cup always being won by a local coach

In Russia, Senegal was arguably Africa's most individually-talented squad but Cisse was unable to convert that into a second-round berth, the number of yellow cards notwithstanding.

When you consider the short experience he has had coaching at that level, was he exposed tactically? Or was there something else at play?

Then there is the issue of football development on the continent. In short, do we have the right systems and structures in place to allow coaches, foreign or otherwise, to succeed?

Maybe we are having the wrong debate because a coach's passport surely cannot solve the underlying problems that the continent faces.

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