Shambles (Part Five) – The African Mentality


by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 6th 2010)

Editorʼs Note

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.

Derek Miller

The Recurring Mentality

With Hassan Shehata – arguably the best coach in African history – out of the running, the African Mentality had struck again. A European coach would get the job of coaching the Super-Eagles at the World Cup with little or no knowledge of African football. A few months ago Guinea’s coach Aboubacar Sidike (Titi) Camara bemoaned the way that African coaches were undervalued by African Football Associations.1

Paul le Guen was appointed coach of Cameroun with lavish reception upon his arrival in Yaoundé, capital of the former French colony. Le Guen at least revitalised the Indomitable Lions’ flagging bid to reach the World Cup Finals and he was the Camerounian FA’ s first choice.

Wasted Opportunity

It worked for Cameroun, even though there is no reason why it should have until the African Cup of Nations in Angola, when le Guen was out-thought by Shehata in the quarter-final. Nevertheless, Nigeria decided to tread a path again that its own FA had done much to discredit despite qualifying for the World Cup, achieving its pre-determined target in the African Cup of Nations and securing the right to talk to Africa’s best coach, Shehata.

Even the best Africa has to offer cannot find work with an African team at the World Cup despite a vacancy. That went to a European who failed to take his country to the World Cup Lars Lagerbäck. The Swede knew nothing of Nigeriaʼs football culture and philosophy.

The African Mentality

This is perhaps the worst example of the phenomenon that the legendary Ghanaian coach Cecil Jones Attuquayefio refers to as the African Mentality. “Sometimes we are inclined to believe that our own people are discriminating against local coaches, but why I can’t say”, he told us exclusively.

He makes it clear that even the best African coaches have proved themselves. “I’m telling you, it’s the African mentality – they believe that the only people who can save the football is white”, he says. “But Africans who have had the opportunity have been able to prove their worth – C K Gyamfi and Hassan Shehata.”.

So what can African coaches do about being treated with such disrespect? “What you can do is accept it or have a plan and complain about it”, Attuquayefio said, “but it is the African mentality – it is the white man who can do it. It is the African local way and I don’t like to be doing that because I personally want to change the will. That’s some of the feeling that we have against our own people and not the white people that come”.

The rejection of Shehata in favour of a European that has not matched his achievements reasserts the African Mentality just two years after Berti Vogts failed so miserably. Will they ever learn?