by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 6th 2010)
We published this series of articles in 2010. With the debate raging over whether English football should implement its version of American Footballʼs Rooney Rule to guarantee black and minority ethnic (BME) candidates an interview for coaching/managerial jobs in the top flight of English football, we decided that the plight of African coaches in their own countries deserved another airing.
Insult to Injury
The rejection of Shehata by the Nigerian FA opened the path for the other candidates – white Europeans. The Serb, Ratomir Dujković: Swede, Lars Lagerbäck, Englishman Peter Taylor and Frenchman Bruno Metsu would battle it out in the interview process.
Dujković’s credentials appeared the best suited to Nigeria’s needs at first glance. He had experience in Africa and had led Ghana to the last World Cup, but failed to credit of local coaches including Cecil Jones Attuquayefio. Ghana was the only African team to reach the knock-out stage in Germany.
Nevertheless, his successor Claude le Roy achieved more in the African Cup of Nations in Ghana and compatriot Milovan Rajevac surprised many by guiding Ghana to the World Cup in South Africa and an unexpected second place in the African Cup of Nations in Angola.
Lagerbäck progressed through the ranks of coaching in Sweden from 1990 from junior level to assistant to joint coach until he landed the top job in his own right when Tommy Söderberg left to coach the Under-21 team in 2004. Lagerbäck led Sweden to the World Cup in 2006 and European Championships in 2008, but failed to make a great impression in either tournament.
He resigned in 2009 after Sweden failed to qualify for the World Cup – not even making it to the generous play-off system that Europe enjoys where eight second place teams compete for four places.1 Sweden came third in their group.
Lagerbäck took responsibility, but thanks to Nigeria he had a chance to go to the World Cup while Sweden’s players and fans stayed in Scandinavia. Lagerbäck completed his CV with having absolutely no experience of African football, let alone Nigerian.
But Lagerbäck at least had some relevant experience. Peter Taylor’s international experience was laughable compared to Shehata. He had two spells in charge of England’s Under-21 team and was caretaker manager of the national side in 2000. Apart from that he had plenty of managerial experience in English football throughout the leagues.
He is currently manager of Bradford City in Division Two – previously the Fourth Division.. How this qualified him to be mentioned in the same breath as Shehata, let alone for the Super-Eagles job, is known only to the Nigerian FA.
The Best Candidate
The final candidate, Bruno Metsu, ironically was by far the best suited for the job and consequently was the least known of them outside of Africa. Metsu is the only one bar Shehata to have extensive experience of coaching in Africa. He was in charge of Guinea in 2000 before accepting the job with Senegal, later that year.
He led the tiny West-African nation to the World Cup in 2002. Metsu master-minded the defeat of World and European champions France – the land of his birth by drilling Senegalese players on the weaknesses of the French rather than their own strengths.
Senegal bade a fond farewell to Asia’s World Cup after matching Cameroun’s achievement of reaching the quarter-final. The country’s President Abdoulaye Wade declared a national holiday to celebrate the victory over France. Metsu married a Muslim woman and converted – he is also known as Abdul Karim.
The African Mentality
Metsu left Africa to coach in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and briefly Saudi Arabia. He is currently the national coach of Qatar – a position that he has occupied since 2008. Metsu has experience of both African football and experience of the World Cup with an African team – having led Senegal to the best finish by an African nation in the World Cup in recent years.
Appointing Metsu would have made sense, but he was an outsider and did not get the job. On February 26th the Nigerian FA appointed Lagerbäck. The absurdity of the African Mentality had struck again.
1 Every confederation bar Africa is involved in play-offs for the best teams that fail to qualify automatically. Of those only Europe competes against itself and has four automatic places at the World Cup. Asia, South America, CONCACAF and Oceania have half a place each.