by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 5th 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.
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. Amodu’s 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 Shehata’s 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.
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.
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.