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Thu Apr 17 08:45:00 SAST 2014

Will Safa go for an out of vogue foreign coach?

Ian Hawkey in Barcelona | 10 June, 2012 10:300 Comments
Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona - Copa del Rey Final
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola gestures during the Copa del Rey final between Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona at Vicente Calderon Stadium on May 25, 2012 in Madrid, Spain
Image by: Angel Martinez / Getty Images

SOME of the most respected and admired coaches in soccer are currently out of work: Pep Guardiola, architect of Barcelona's soaring recent success; Fabio Capello, a champion with AC Milan, Real Madrid and Rome and more recently in charge of England; the prodigiously young Andre Villas Boas, sacked in March by Chelsea. Any ambitious organisation seeking a new coach would like to be surveying this managerial market.

Time was that Safa might not have baulked immediately at the kind of salary a man like Capello tends to ask for. After all, in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup, the name of Sven Goran Eriksson was being earnestly discussed as a possible guide for Bafana Bafana as they approached their big opportunity as hosts of the greatest sporting event.

That already seems a distant era. The last World Cup made Africa fashionable for the sorts of men whose careers had mainly been spent in Europe. Eriksson took Ivory Coast to the finals; his Swedish compatriot Lars Lagerback was in charge of Nigeria; Frenchman Paul Le Guen managed Cameroon. Only one of the six African countries at SA 2010 - Algeria - had an African coach.

What happened next in Africa seemed to mark a reaction to the continent's attitude to foreign managers for national teams and a genuine watershed in what has been a perennial debate, see-sawing one way and then the other in countless countries, including SA, over whether local coaches should be backed and promoted or whether expatriate expertise is best suited to the demands of tournament play and with dealing, as is often the case, with squads whose best players tend to be employed abroad. At the last Nations Cup, two of the pre-event favourites, Ivory Coast and Senegal were - unusually for them - guided by native coaches.

A French manager, Herve Renard, then took Zambia to the title. It was a fine achievement, but it doesn't mean foreign managers should suddenly come into vogue again. There is bound to be temptation within Safa to consider the longish list of so-called Old Africa Hands, the group of European coaches who have a string of African teams on their CVs, as a possible successor to Steve Komphela, but times have changed for those types, too. A man like Philippe Troussier, the Frenchman appointed Bafana coach in 1998 for that World Cup on the basis of broad success in Africa, has built a reputation since in Asia, where the rewards are so large that Marcello Lippi, who won the World Cup with Italy, is now employed at a Chinese club.

There will always be seasoned coaches tempted by chance at taking a team to Brazil in 2014, but they are operating in a broader market now.

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