Five African countries are set to take part in the 2022 World Cup holding in Qatar but this time, history beckons for the continent.
The coaches for the teams – Ghana, Tunisia, Senegal, Morocco, and Cameroon – are from their countries.
This is the first time all teams from Africa will have local coaches leading them to the biggest football fiesta in the world, a development observers believe bodes well for the game on the continent.
Ahead of the competition which begins Sunday, here is a snapshot of the five men that would be on the touchline for Africa’s representatives:
Rigobert Song, 46, is a Cameroon football legend having performed at four World Cups and helped the Indomitable Lions win the Africa Cup of Nations twice in eight tournament appearances.
A centre-back, his club career spanned France, Italy, England, Germany and Turkey, including spells at Liverpool and West Ham United. Called the ‘Big Chief’, he suffered a stroke in 2016 and was in a coma for several days.
Cameroon sacked Portuguese Toni Conceicao after a third-place finish as 2021 Cup of Nations hosts and coaching rookie Song masterminded a shock World Cup play-off victory over Algeria. Warm-up losses to Uzbekistan and fellow qualifiers South Korea have dampened spirits, however.
Aliou Cisse, 46, wants to atone for an agonising exit from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where Senegal lost out on a second-round place only because they accumulated more yellow cards than Japan. After losing as a player in the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations final, he made amends by guiding his country to victory in Cameroon this year with a penalty shootout victory over Egypt at the end of a goalless final.
Part of the Senegal team that reached the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals in South Korea, he was a midfielder at French and English clubs, including Paris Saint-Germain.
Former Ghana World Cup midfielder Otto Addo, 47, who had never been a head coach, faced a baptism of fire as the Black Stars’ boss last February, inheriting a demoralised squad after a stunning loss to the Comoros condemned the four-time African champions to a first-round exit from the 2021 Cup of Nations.
Defying the odds, they drew twice with arch-rivals Nigeria to qualify on away goals. Addo has failed to convince many Ghanaians, though, that he can take the side beyond the first round and the national football association organised two national days of prayer and fasting — one for Christians and another for Muslims — to galvanise support.
Walid Regragui, 47, has had little time to prepare the Atlas Lions having replaced Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic on the last day of August this year. Born in Paris, he played right-back for a number of French clubs and one in Spain and was capped 45 times by Morocco, the home of his parents.
His coaching career began in 2012 as a Moroccan national team assistant and he then guided clubs in the north African kingdom and in Qatar. The highlight of his coaching career came this year when he led Wydad Casablanca to victory over Egyptian giants Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League final.
The enormity of the task facing Jalel Kadri was laid bare a month ago in Paris when record five-time world champions Brazil trounced Tunisia 5-1 in a warm-up match. “We know France is of the same quality as Brazil,” said the 50-year-old, with Denmark and Australia their other group rivals. “The World Cup draw has placed Tunisia in a very difficult section.”
Kadri has been in charge since March after being promoted from an assistant role when Mondher Kebaier was sacked following an Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals loss to Burkina Faso. In 20 years as a club coach, Kadri has worked in Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
Source: Channels TV