The Final Chapter

Segun at Wembley

by Segun Odegbami © Segun Odegbami (February 15th 2015)

Afcon 2015 – New African Champions

After an exciting three weeks of pulsating but technically mediocre festival of football in Equatorial Guinea, the Elephants of la Côte d’Ivoire have become the new Champions of African football. They took the coveted trophy that was relinquished, rather humiliatingly, by Nigeria. The Super Eagles had exited at the qualifying stage of the championship.

CIMG6619

It may have taken well over 20 years for their trophy drought to end, but when it finally did the whole of Côte d’Ivoire exploded in an orgy of celebration as the government declared a national public holiday and lavishly rewarded the gallant heroes with houses and cash gifts. It was a far cry from the disgraceful treatment Ivorian players received from former dictator Robert Guéï after a poor performance in Afcon 2000.

History

The final match against Ghanaʼs Black Stars created razor-sharp pressure for both teams. Tactically, they cancelled each other out for 120 minutes and the match had to be settled by penalty kicks – again. That match marked the third time the Elephants played in the final of the Nations Cup and did not score a goal. It also marked the third time a final involving the Ivorians had gone to penalties.

The recourse to penalty kicks against these opponents historically favoured the Ivorians. In 1992 they won the championship for the first time against Ghana after a marathon penalty shoot-out that ended 11-10. They had tasted defeat in a penalty shoot-out too when Egypt won the first of their unprecedented three consecutive titles in 2006.

Two Sunday night’s ago the elements were on the side of Côte d’Ivoire once again, as ‘lightning struck twice on the same spot’. 

Ghana were left stranded on the banks of misfortune as they threw away an early two-goal lead, due to nerves, and lost 8-9 in the end, continuing a trophy drought that has lasted 33 years. The Black Stars have lost their last three finals, twice on penalties to the Ivorians and once to Egypt in 2010

Apart from the penalty shoot-out the final match was tension-soaked but technically ordinary and boring – a true reflection of the entire championship.

The Special Generation

Winning the championship was momentous for Côte d’Ivoire as it marked the end of an era for several of their ageing generation of players, some of whom have been among the best footballers in the history of African football. Between them, Didier Drogba and Yaya Touré have won the African player of the year award 7 times. Add to that other great players playing at a high level in Europe, including Kolo Touré, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, and so on.

CIMG9165

It is unfortunate that Drogba chose to retire from international football on the eve of the championship. The victory would have capped a very illustrious and unprecedented career that had only the African Cup of Nations title as the missing trophy in his rich chest.

Scant Consolation

Overall, Ghana looked the slightly better and more organised team, even though Côte d’Ivoire were unbeaten did not lose any of their matches throughout the championship. However, the Ghanaians were the more entertaining team during the tournament. Consequently, it is not surprising that the player of the tournament came from the Ghanaian team.

Christian Atsu, currently on loan from Chelsea to Everton got more opportunities under Avram Grant than he has from José Mourinho or Roberto Martínez in England. The fleet, left-footed player operated from the right side of the Ghanaian attack, scoring two of Ghana’s three goals in the quarter-finals and constantly terrorised the Ivorian defence during the final. He deserved the award. He was a bright star in a very grey constellation.

Memories

Finally, the Championship will be remembered not for memorable matches but for other reasons: how the championship ended up in a country that did not even qualify for the championship and was under suspension by CAF; how the terraces were empty during most of the matches except those involving the host country; how Morocco were suspended (and rejected the suspension) for two tournaments for refusing to host the event due to genuine health fears; how Tunisia were suspended for failing to apologise for accusing CAF of bias and complicity when they were openly ‘robbed’ by a referee who only got a slap-on-the-wrist six-month suspension, for his shameful handling of the match in question; how supporters of the host country threw decorum to the dogs and unleashed mayhem on players and supporters of an opposing team with the shameful scenes watched on television all over the world; how both CAF and FIFA Presidents condemned the Western media for ‘exaggerating’ reports of the incidents that smeared the organization of the championship because they needed to make more friends than enemies amongst national federations with their elections coming, and so on.

Blatter and Hayatou 6

At the end of Afcon 2015, the championship simply could not produce or showcase the best version of African football as well as authentic new stars to illuminate African football into the immediate future. Letʼs hope that Afcon 2017 will supply both. The country that will host that tournament will be decided by CAF in April, following the withdrawal of Libya as hosts due to security concerns.

Next Time the Fire-power

Four countries that expressed an interest met CAFʼs conditions to host the tournament. Beaten finalists Ghana last hosted in 2008. They also hosted and won the tournament twice previously. The first time was in 1963 – the first appearance of the Black Stars in the tournament. That was the first of three triumphs under the legendary African coach Charles Kumi Gyamfi. Only Egyptʼs Hassan Shehata has matched him, although Hervé Renard has made history already and has power to add.

CIMG2675

The next time Ghana hosted and won was in 1978, the only victory of the Black Stars not under Gyamfiʼs supervision. Fred Osam Duodu was the successful coach. The most successful team in African history, the Pharaohs have won the trophy seven times. Egyptʼs last success – qualification too – was in 2010. They hosted and won in 2006.

Their fierce rivals the Desert Foxes of Algeria have only one title to their name. They hosted and won in 1990. That leaves Gabon. They have never won the trophy. Their best achievement was reaching the quarter-final twice, in 1996 when they went out on penalties to beaten finalists Tunisia and when they co-hosted in 2012. Gabon has never hosted in their own right.

Advertisements

Making History

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 8th 2015)

Coaches

Avram Grant would become only the third coach to win with the Black Stars and the first foreigner – Charles Kumi Gyamfi won it thrice and Fred Osam Duodu in 1978. Ghanaians hope that the 33 year wait is about to end, but a former ally stands in their way. Hervé Renard hopes to make history too.

Herve Renard 3

He failed to persuade national legend Didier Drogba to reverse his international retirement and he knows that the Golden generation of Ivorian football has ultimately failed to deliver. Three times the Elephants have reached the final of the African Cup of Nations. Every time it went the distance.

In 1992 la Côte dʼIvoire achieved their only success. Fourteen years later Hassan Shehata led the Pharaohs to the first of three triumphs. And in 2012 Renard was the tactician who broke Ivorian hearts leading Zambia to their only Cup of Nations triumph. On each occasion the final ended in 0-0 draw – hopefully the cycle will be broken tonight.

The Next Generation

CIMG2646

Renard stands on the brink of history, but is quick to acknowledge another. “He won the Cup of Nations with Cameroon”, Renard said of Claude le Roy. “He deserves total credit [for Renardʼs success with Zambia], because without him I wouldnʼt set one foot in Africa. He did everything for me. Itʼs even him who spoke with Mr Kalusha Bwalya [President of the Zambian FA] about me. I think Kalusha didnʼt know me very well. I think itʼs a good record. I think I came on the right place at the right moment”.

Kalusha Bwalya 2

Bwaylya gave Renard a chance twice. “… in 2008 I was reflecting on that when Zambia was at the Africa Cup I thought, what is the best requisite for a coach to work in Africa – of course Africaʼs always been in the export of players, but an importer of coaches, so I thought to myself, we needed a young coach to come and also who was ambitious, who was not going to be too comfortable in Africa to stay here 20 years”, Bwalya told us.

Bwalya had a plan and Renard was part of it. “I thought that it was important that they stay here three, four, five years and target the Africa Cup, target the World Cup and then they can move on, so when I got Hervé Renard after I assumed office in 2008 I brought him to start to prepare the team for 2010 – Hervé Renard”, Bwalya said. “In the three years he spent a lot of time in our country; he was very, very comfortable in our country”.

CIMG2675

Delayed Reaction Crystal Balls

Bwalya picked the right man even if it came true in Renardʼs return. “The work ethic, he was always working”, Bwalya said. “He was not afraid to lose a game which most of the people when they come away, they look more worried about their salary and everything done than the performance of the team”.

Renard repaid Bwalyaʼs trust. The African legend was the first to take a chance on Renard. He was vindicated in 2012 when the Chipolopolo fulfilled Bwalyaʼs dreams – he fell just short as a player in 1994.

 Kalusha Bwalya 1

Meanwhile, two years ago, while covering the last edition in South Africa I asked Renard who would win the African Cup of Nations. “I think Ivory Coast and Ghana will reach the final”, he said. “They are the strongest teams”. Perhaps it was a delayed reaction answer that took two years to mature.

CIMG2674

Coming of Age

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 8th 2015)

Making History

CIMG2647

Seven years ago two young men were determined to make history at the African Cup of Nations. One was a young assistant coach believed in by one of the continentʼs finest European imports, Claude le Roy and the other was the son of Ghanaian – African legend, Abedi (Pelé) Ayew. Back then Hervé Renard was le Royʼs assistant as coach of the Black Stars and André Ayew was at the beginning of his international career.

Tonight one will achieve their dreams of glory in the African Cup of Nations at the expense of the other, ending a long wait for glory for either Ghana or la Côte dʼIvoire. Both Ayew and Renard have already one final appearance apiece. Renard has the edge, winning with the Chipolopolo in 2012 against his current side, whereas the younger Ayew lost in the 2010 to Egypt.

Herve Renard 3

Family Misery

There is unfinished business between the nations too. The only previous occasions the Elephants have met the Black Stars in the final was in 1992 in Senegal. The competitionʼs best player was Abedi. “It is my biggest regret in football”, Abedi said. “I couldnʼt help my team.”

He was suspended for the final. In his absence la Côte dʼIvoire won on penalties. Anthony Baffoe had the misfortune of missing the crucial penalty. Abedi is a Nations Cup winner – he came on as a substitute in the final against the hosts Libya, which ended 1-1. As a youngster he was in the squad that the legendary Ghanaian coach Charles Kumi Gyamfi took to Libya in 1982 – the last time that the Black Stars won the African Cup of Nations. They won 7-6 on penalties.

André played in the final of the 2010 edition in Angola. The Black Stars lost to Geddoʼs strike 5 minutes from the end – the last of Egyptʼs unprecedented three titles in a row. Although he finds comparisons to his father absurd, the younger Ayewʼs achievements are mounting. He was captain of Ghanaʼs Under-20 African Cup of Nations and World Cup winning teams in 2009.

Ayew was the BBCʼs African Player of the Year in 2011 and also Ghanaʼs. He made his international debut in 2007 under le Roy. “He is the future”, le Roy said effusively at the time. “André Ayew and all the players – they are the leaders of the new generation”. The 2008 edition of the African Cup of Nations came too soon. Just two years later they had matured, but fell at the last stage. Five years on Ayew is an integral part of the Black Starsʼ set-up. His younger brother Jordan is also part of Avram Grantʼs team.

In the Genes

I donʼt compare myself to him [my father] Dedé Ayew told us exclusively in 2007. “He has had his career and achieved everything. I am at the beginning of mine”. The legendary Abedi concurs. “We donʼt talk about football,” he told me at the 26th edition of the African Cup of Nations. “We talk about father and son things”.

It soon became apparent that he is very proud of his son. André briefly retired from international football in 2013 after a dispute with the Ghanaian FA. His father never got to play in the World Cup finals, but André has achieved that goal, playing in two editions, including 2010 when Ghana matched the achievement of Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002 in reaching the quarter-finals.

It’s very important to me [playing for Ghana]” the young Ayew said in 2007. “It’s something very big that happened to me to be selected for the Ghanaian national team, so I’m very proud of myself and proud to wear the jersey of Ghana”.

So what were his ambitions back then? “To become a better footballer and every day try to learn and become somebody good in life, in my career, of my family, win the African Cup of Nations, which is in Ghana and help to make the people happy”.

He might just achieve that tonight seven years late and in a foreign country. It would complete his African Cup of Nations medal collection – he already has bronze and silver. It would also make history for Avram Grant. The former Chelsea manager famously came second twice with that club, but should he achieve success tonight Grant will achieve legendary status in the land that Osagyefo (Dr Kwame Nkrumah) led to independence.

CIMG6619

AFCON 2015 – Uniquely African Flavour

by Segun Odegbami © Segun Odegbami (January 22nd 2015)

Remote Sensing

CIMG8139

I am watching AFCON 2015 remotely from my home in Nigeria. It has been a totally different experience. I normally attend in person if Nigeria are playing. Sadly they didnʼt qualify this time, so I am at home, missing the electricity and atmosphere of being at the venues.

I still must admit that the ongoing Championship has been a great football treat with some riveting matches defined by the athleticism of the players and competitiveness of the teams. It is very much unlike European or South American competitions that are highly technical and tactical.

This has been football with a unique African flavour – power, speed, a lot of long high balls, endless running, tight marking, fouls galore, brutish tackles, not enough creativity and surely not enough goals.

Nip and Tuck

The matches have been extremely close. Anything can still happen to change the faintly emerging picture of the first round. So far, as an indication that there are no more minnows in African football, after the first 10 matches, 6 have ended in draws. But besides that there have also been some ‘pleasant’ surprises.

Issa Hayatou 3

Ghana’s loss in their first match to Senegal is surely a shock. Senegal, before AFCON 2015, seemed to have been in some kind of football limbo. To defeat Ghana, therefore, is no small feat. But the Bafana Bafana is a different matter.

South Africa’s tame capitulation to Algeria in a match they could have won easily was another shocker. They had the match under full control until they lost a penalty kick that could have given them a comfortable two-goal cushion. Thereafter, they lost focus, confidence and direction, and conceded 3 quick goals to a resurgent Algeria.

The group that had 3 West African and one Central African team, produced truly very hard but very exciting thrillers. At the end of the first round of matches all the teams were inseparably tied on same points and goals – Cameroon, the Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Guinea. Also, as I predicted last week, the host nation, Equatorial Guinea, is struggling. They did not win either of their first two matches and both Gabon and Claude le Royʼs Congo are poised to send the hosts packing from a tournament they were controversially gifted at the eleventh hour.

CIMG2646

General observations

Considering the short time the host country had to prepare and host the championship, it is remarkable to observe that the grounds and playing surfaces are in reasonably good condition. Television coverage with commentaries and match analysis have also been of the highest quality and standards.

Technically, my first observations are that there is now an almost infinitesimal gap between African countries in terms of their football standards and facilities. All matches are now extremely close. Even the little Islands of Cape Verde have not lost in their first two games, although they have also not played with the same flair and confidence that made analysts at AFCON 2013 compare their playing style with FC Barçelona’s Tiki Taka.

Those comparisons may be gone but Cape Verde are still playing fearlessly in the championship and cannot be written off. With most of the teams there is a general lack of inventiveness. In front of goal, creating chances and converting them clinically continues to be a problem. Whereas, defences have been hard, physical and better organised, attacks have been uncreative, inconsistent and rather tame.

Star Quality

One bright star of the championship to me has been Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon. His performances in the two matches played against Equatorial Guinea and Congo (one win and one loss respectively) has thrown up an authentic ‘new’ African star. In the two matches, he stood out like the Northern Star. He has grown from the young man who had to be consoled by his father Pierre after Gabon’s exit when they  co-hosted three years ago. 

Pierre Aubameyang Snr

Another star performer has been Mali’s left-footed and menacing striker, Bakary Sako. He is a player to watch as one of the potential stars of this championship. He plays for Wolverhampton Wanderers in England’s Championship the tier below the Premier League. This striker single-handedly kept Cameroon’s defence busy all night, harassing them at will, and exposing the weakness on the right side of their defence in particular.

Tarnished Reputations

Ghana disappointed their fans in the manner that they lost to Senegal. They fell to very poor tactics. The Israeli Avram Grant recently inherited the Black Stars from James Kwesi Appiah. Given their antecedents in football they are likely to rebound in subsequent matches. But the Black Stars last won the African Cup of Nations under Charles Kumi Gyamfi.

Only Egyptʼs legendary Hassan Shehata can rival Gyamfi for the title of the greatest ever African coach. Ghanaians need no reminding that despite reaching the final in 2010 and 1992 their last triumph was 33 years ago. They are overdue, but thatʼs no guarantee. Côte d’Ivoire know that feeling too. Their only Cup of Nations success came against Ghana in 1992. Chelseaʼs talisman Didier Drogba never tasted international glory.

Herve Renard 3

With Hervé Renard in charge the Elephants have a coach who knows that winning sensation. Renardʼs new charges woke up from slumber only after they saw their awesome reputation going up in flames. They were a goal down and their best player on the night, Gervinho, was sent off.

The shock of the possibility of losing what most had thought would be a walk-over for the most-star-studded team in the continent, jolted them into frenetic action. Down to 10 players against Guinea they played like wounded lions, equalized against all odds, redeemed their reputation and restored their chances of advancing beyond the group stage.

Great Expectations

South Africa were the tamest team in the championship after the first round of matches. How could they have sloppily let go a match they had in their pockets already? After failing to convert a penalty kick that would have given them a comfortable two-goal cushion against an Algeria that looked ragged up to that point, the tide of the match suddenly turned.

CIMG2487

The Desert Foxes woke up, found their rhythm, and went on a rampage, scoring three times in 45 minutes to send the Bafana Bafana back to the drawing board, wondering what had hit them.

The Indomitable Lions, my wild bet to win the championship, as usual, were very athletic, hard-working and physical. At the same time they also looked very vulnerable in defence. Cameroon’s next match will show if my pre-tournament expectations have been set too high.

Observations

Otherwise, these are my further observations and analysis:

Group A

Burkina Faso, beaten finalists in 2013, will end their 2015 journey at the group stage. Congo will qualify and be joined by either Gabon or Equatorial Guinea!

Group B

Cape Verde Islands have played robustly but not as well as they did during AFCON 2013. The surprise element that they rode on in 2013 has evaporated. Now other teams take them seriously, and their road has become harder. They are likely to disembark the AFCON 2015 train at the group stage terminus.

CIMG1041

Zambia have not surprised anyone. They are working hard, but struggling. Without much fire-power upfront they are finding it difficult to convert the many goal-scoring chances that they create. They are a far cry from the team that excelled when last in Equatorial Guinea just three years ago. Tunisia look like the best team in the group with DR Congo a close second. The match between them will determine which team wins the group.

Group C

This is too close to call even now. The only sure thing is that South Africa will be the first to exit in the group. Beyond that anything can still happen. Algeria and Senegal have shot up to the front, but Ghana lurk dangerously, poised to benefit from any slip-ups. When they are having a good day Ghana can defeat any of the teams. Surely, there are more surprises to come in this group!

Group D

This is the group where the teams refuse to be separated. Guinea have looked sharp and focused.

Seydou Keita

Mali have looked interesting under the tutelage of ageless Seydou Keita. Côte d’Ivoire was shocked by the result of their first match. Even without Romaʼs Gervinho, they should still have too much talent not to come through this group.

Nevertheless, I am still keeping my money on Cameroon even though they have not played with the usual panache and confidence that create champions. Like a fine wine I am hoping they will get better with every match.

Shambles (Part Four) – Approach and Insult

CIMG6604

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 5th 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

Demotion

Shuaibu Amodu was demoted to manage the Super-Eagles B – the home-based side – a month ago, within a week of the African Cup Nations concluding in Angola with Nigeria coming third. Amodus football convinced few, but was effective. They were hard to beat, but probably would not have won the tournament even if they had beaten Ghana in their semi-final as Hassan Shehatas incomparable Pharaohs side had already beaten them in the group stage and would have been their opponents in the final in Luanda.

The search for a new coach began soon afterward. Almost as soon as the tournament ended Shehata revealed to Egyptian media that the Nigeria FA had approached him regarding coaching the Super-Eagles at the World Cup on a temporary basis.

The Egyptian FA was not keen and initially refused, but eventually respected Shehata’s wishes and allowed the Nigerians to talk to him. Shehata is one of the greatest coaches in African history, if not the greatest – failing to qualify for the World Cup remains the one major blip on his CV.

Legend

Nevertheless, Shehata is an African legend. No other coach has come close to winning the African Cup of Nations thrice in a row. Only Nana Kumi Gyamfi (formerly known as Charles) has won it thrice. Gyamfi is the only coach to have retained it or even won it twice apart from Shehata.

He is terrific”, Gyamfi told us exclusively. “I know very well that he knows how to handle them. I was looking at him very carefully with football eyes and during the game also where he stands. I was watching critically whatever he does and taking note. This man is a good coach. He is good with the team if he only gets the time”.

Gyamfi’s approval is important in Africa and Shehata has that. The Egyptian FA eventually allowed their Nigerian counterparts to speak to Shehata on the strict understanding that it was for the World Cup alone. Shehata was keen, but the Egyptian FA took offence on his behalf at the conditions.

Insulting

They believed it disrespectful to a coach that had achieved so much – more than all the other candidates put together – to subject him to the indignity of an interview after the Nigerians had approached him first.

On February 16th the Egyptian FA informed the Nigerians that they had until the 19th to make an offer for Shehata. They spoke to the Egyptian tactician and told him that he could have his own assistants if he wanted. However, they insisted on interviewing other candidates as well. No offer was made by the deadline imposed by the President of the Egyptian FA Samir Zaher.

This meant that despite Shehata’s extensive experience and knowledge of African conditions and football, he would not coach the Super-Eagles at the World Cup. The Nigerian FA had found a way to fail to land the greatest African coach of the last four decades – possibly ever – and insult him in the process. It was a disgraceful way to treat an African football legend.

An Uneasy Relationship – Archive

Editorʼs Note:

Nothing illustrates footballʼs power to foster change than a World Cup. FIFAʼs decision to release doves as part of a commitment to peace is welcome, although the worldʼs most popular sport can do a lot more. But is a dark side. The power of football has been used and abused by some of the reprehensible people the twentieth century has spewed forth.

Tonight world and European champions Spain – a country that has first hand experience of a dictator abusing footballʼs power and of success without the shadow of political abuse of their achievements – play the Netherlands in their opening match defending their title. We therefore publish this article again.

Derek Miller

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 2nd 2012)

Meddling

Over half a century before Euro 2012 an ageing fascist dictator decided to meddle with football to try to score a political point – actually to avoid the risk of a propaganda defeat. Generalissimo Francisco Franco decided not to risk the possibility of humiliation through defeat to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Franco’s meddling not only prevented a talented generation of Spanish footballers that may have left a legacy and rewritten football history from having the chance to do so, but handed the opportunity of a propaganda coup to his bitterest rivals. This was a boycott that failed spectacularly and should have had even more serious consequences.

Politics and Football

Spain played a very important role in proving that politics and football not only mix, but often collide at speed. The very first European Championship took place in a different era both for politics and football.

A liberating football revolution was taking place in Africa under the guidance of Kwame Nkrumah and Ohene Djan. The football face of that revolution Charles Kumi Gyamfi began his assault on African football’s highest echelons. Gyamfi went on to become one of (if not the) greatest coaches in African history.

Early Boycott Backfires

Meanwhile, Spain was enduring the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco and the dictator refused to allow Spain to play against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It should have had consequences – ones that properly affected Franco. The dictator had interfered with football and the consequences should have been a ban from the next competition. That didnʼt happen.

Benefiting from the bye gifted to them by the Spanish dictator, the Soviet Union went on to win the inaugural European Championship courtesy of Victor Ponedelnik’s extra-time decider against Yugoslavia. Nikita Khrushchev and his colleagues took full advantage, basking in the glory of the USSR’s only title – by then Olympic gold had lost its lustre. Politics and football mixed at will.

Campeones

Four years later it was a case of different ideology, but same story. Khrushchev had savoured his moment, but his colleagues brought him down in disgrace after the Cuban Missiles Crisis. His successors hoped for a repeat dose, but Franco had learned his lesson.

His boycott had handed a propaganda coup to his ideological adversary in 1960. That would not be allowed to happen again. The defending champions would have to beat Spain on the pitch if they wanted to retain their title.

Football and Politics

Franco’s fellow fascist dictator Benito Mussolini knew the power of football. He had used it to great effect in 1934 and again in 1938. An England team had given the Nazi salute in an international in the 1930s in Berlin. If that wasn’t a mix of politics and football, what was?

Even more controversially, Mussolini had brazenly interfered with the tournament in 1934. The night before the final he had dinner with the referee, who had also refereed the semi-final – a very controversial match. It was perhaps the worst fix in football, but being champions has its benefits.

Success on the pitch unites a nation. Politicians know this and dictators know its value better than most. Mussolini started the worrying trend in 1934 and continued it in1938, but football had the last laugh on the dictator, helping to bring him down with Hajduk Split in the starring role.

Ducking the Issue

Dictators know the power of football and use it to their advantage. But UEFA, admittedly a very young organisation at the time, made a serious error of judgement almost half a century ago. Franco chose to put himself above football in 1960.

Instead of paying the consequences with a ban UEFA appeased the dictator allowing Spain to not only compete in the next tournament, but to host it. That disgraces the competition and undermined UEFAʼs authority in the future.

Limited Powers

The Soviet Union relinquished their crown, never to win it again and although Spain succeeded the USSR as champions of Europe, they had a 44 year wait to win it again, by which time Franco was long dead and Spanish democracy firmly rooted. But it was not all smiles for the politicians.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapotero became one of the few political leaders to fail benefit from football triumph. Despite Spain winning both the European Championship and World Cup in his tenure Spaniards, feeling the economic pinch, unceremoniously kicked him out of power earlier this year. Mariano Rajoy Brey had best beware – not even footballing success guarantees power.

 

 

Coaching Legacy (Part Three) – Archive

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30th 2010)

Shameful Precedent

Even the greatest coaches are treated abysmally by African federations. Charles Kumi Gyamfi won the African Cup of Nations at the first attempt in 1963. He retained it in 1965. Following the military coup that deposed Ghanas first President Dr Kwame Nkrumah in February 1966, Gyamfi was shamefully demoted to be the assistant to a recently qualified Brasilian fitness trainer, Carlos Alberto Parreira, for the 1968 Cup of Nations.

It was a disastrous decision that cost the Black Stars dear. Ghana lost 1-0 to a Pierre Kalala goal for Congo-Kinshasa in one of the biggest shocks in the history of the tournament. Parreira deserved the sack. Gyamfi didnt, but paid the price anyway. Gyamfis great football knowledge and popularity with the team was thrown away. They played for Gyamfi – wanted to – but Parreria had none of that. It was not the Brasilian’s fault that he was appointed above his abilities – Ghanas coup plotters bear ultimate responsibility for that and much more besides.

The sacking of Gyamfi set an unfortunate precedent that happened again forty years later to Augustine Eguavoen. The Nigerian number two was sacked after Berti Vogts failure in the 2008 edition of the African Cup of Nations, but Eguavoens fate cannot compare to Gyamfi, who had achieved something that took more than forty years to be matched – retaining the African Cup of Nations.

I think it defies imagination”, says one of the young players that Gyamfi brought through in 1965, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio, who went on to follow his mentor into coaching. 63 he won it as head coach with his assistant. 65 he won it again with the same assistant. 68 the two of them were relegated and Parreira took over. He had to go back as assistant, so you see the African mentality is the problem here. Terrible”.

Wasted Opportunities

Camerounian goalkeeping hero Thomas Nkono agrees. “One of the problems of Africa is they dont have consciousness of yourself”, he told us. “We have ideas about white people – yellow people. For the African, the first thing to do is to give the confidence of the people to the coach. Give him all possibility”.

But this doesnt happen for African coaches. They are held to short-term contracts and do not receive the support they need. It happened to Attuquayefio more than once. Despite a four-year contract with Ghana in 2000 he was dismissed in a year.

In 2004 he managed to take Bénin to the African Cup of Nations finals for the first time in their history. They lost every match and Attuquayefio was sacked, but he created a legacy in the tiny West-African nation. Sadly it was squandered by the late Reinhard Fabisch.

They decided to go for a white man to come and coach them again”, said Attuquayefio. “The white man arrived and he has held them to a long contract, whereas when I was there I had a contract that was from fear. It is the African way and I don’t like to be doing that because I personally want to change the will”. But how?

The Slumbers

The revolution, or at least the understanding of the power of football was rediscovered, ironically by General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong. His investment paid off for the Black Stars, but not himself. Fred Osam Duodo won the African Cup of Nations in 1978, but it did little for Acheampong, who shared Nkrumah’s fate. A few weeks after Ghana won the tournament he was overthrown in yet another coup.

Further coups and counter-coups brought the controversial Jerry Rawlings to power. Acheampong was executed by firing squad in 1979. Ghana won the African Cup of Nations for the fourth and so far last time in 1982 – Gyamfi’s third and last triumph. They lost in the final in 1992 and again in 2010, but the February 1966 coup cost Ghanaian football far more.

The counter-revolution was consolidated and Ghanaian coaching regressed. The model that had produced Gyamfi and enabled others to learn from him was lost. Top coaches were ostracised as the military governments did not invest in football or its potential and the next generation of African coaching talent stagnated before it was allowed to develop.

The principles of the Football Revolution and opportunities that it gave talented Ghanaians were thrown away. They had to be rediscovered. So did the accomplishments of Osagyefo – Dr Kwame Nkrumah.