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Author: Ola Fadoju

QATAR 2022 must impart a positive coaching legacy for Africa and the Caribbean member associations

Updated Friday, 2 December 2022

Qatar 2022 saw all five African nations led by a head coach who is a native of their country, changing the narrative that a non-African was essential in them being successful, most notably Morocco's Walid Regragui. Are we really seeing an ongoing trend or a flash in the pan, and does this really indicate progress for those chasing a coaching career in Africa?

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On 10th December 2022, Morocco beat Portugal to reach the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup. Before this, Senegal qualified for the 2nd round, with Ghana, Cameroon and Tunisia also disproving the myth that African coaches are tactically naïve. 

So, what is the history of head coaches (in men’s football) being native to the country they are leading, specifically in Africa and the Caribbean?  

There is minimal statistical evidence, and academic research is still in its infancy. While researching for this project it was obvious that more research and evaluation is necessary to ascertain the impact of hiring African and Caribbean coaches to their national teams in comparison to White coaches from the Global North.  

It is only in recent times that coaches of African and Caribbean heritage have been given the opportunities to coach their men’s national teams, yet youth age national teams (U15, U17, U20 and U23) tend to be coached by coaches from African and Caribbean heritage. So why are they not given the opportunity to progress? Is this an issue of a (i) bad or underdeveloped pipeline, or of a (ii) colonial mindset, because across the Global North the likes of Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Yaya Touré (Ivory Coast) and Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria) have not been able to cross the bridge from global superstar player to global coaches in comparison to their White counterparts such as Dragan Stojković (Serbia), Luis Enrique (Spain), Roberto Martinez (Belgium), Didier Deschamps (France) and Gareth Southgate (England), although a majority of football fans might not agree that Martinez and Southgate were global superstars as football players. 

A sea of change?

But are things getting better? At the World Cup in Qatar (2022) the five African countries are coached by former players. Senegal is coached by Aliou Cissé who played part of his footballing career in England and helped Senegal win their first Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title in early 2022. Tunisia is coached by Jalel Kadri who is Tunisian. Morocco is coached by Walid Regragui who is Moroccan and has the pedigree of winning the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League title in 2021–22. Cameroon is coached by Rigobert Song, who is Cameroon’s most capped player and former caretaker boss, as well as previously being in charge of the U23s team. Ghana is coached by Otto Addo who played for Ghana in the 2006 World Cup. Addo was recently brought in to replace Serbian Milovan Rajevac after a poor AFCON 2022 and he secured World Cup qualification after a two-leg away-goal victory over their fierce rivals Nigeria. Addo is ably supported by Chris Houghton (Ghana Technical Director), who has been a manager in the English Premier League. Yet Nigeria recently seemed to take a step backwards by sacking their caretaker coach Augustine ‘Cerezo’ Eguavoen, who is Nigerian, and replacing him with José Peseiro (White Portuguese) who is essentially a journeyman coach with a record that doesn’t scream glory at you. One can only assume that the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) thought they were getting José Mourinho.  

Otto Addo Qatar 2022

Otto Addo

So, on paper the picture looks quite good. The five African countries are all coached by coaches from their countries and if you look at the sub-Saharan African countries more widely, they all have Black coaches. But is that the case for the Caribbean national teams? There are 31 Caribbean countries affiliated to the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) which is one of FIFA’s six continental governing bodies for association football. While writing this article I asked for information from CONCACAF regarding data on their head coaches but there has been no response. However, among the prominent teams in the Caribbean, which I have based on the FIFA rankings, Jamaica is ranked 64 and their head coach is Heimir Hallgrímsson. He is White and was the former coach of Iceland, managing them at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Jamacia’s three previous coaches before the appointment of Hallgrímsson were Merron Gordon, Paul Hall and Theodore Whitmore who were all Black and ex-players of the national team.  

Curaçao, currently ranked 86 in the world, is managed by Remko Bicentini, who is from Curaçao and had previously managed the team (2016–20) with some success. Previous managers of Curaçao have been the famed coach Guus Huddink and Dutch superstar player Patrick Kluivert. Trinidad and Tobago are ranked at 104. They are currently managed (since 2021) by Angus Eve, who is Black and is the most capped player for the country having made 117 appearances. Prior to his appointment the team was managed by Terry Fenwick who is White and was a member of the 1986 England World Cup team. Haiti, which is currently ranked 87, is managed by Jean-Jacques Pierre who is a Black Haitian and previously played for the national team.  

Emmerson Boyce

Emmerson Boyce

One cannot use the sample of three teams to assume that there is a positive sea of change with hiring of Caribbean natives as head coaches. However, there seems to be an indication also based on evidence, for instance Emerson Boyce is an ex-professional player who played much of his career in England and is now the Technical Director of Barbados. Maurice Lowe is currently the Bermudan Technical Director, which further signifies that the African and Caribbean Football associations are moving positively to having their head coaches recruited internally. Nevertheless, the key issue now would be the sustainability of this pattern of employment because it is not sure if this an informed initiative or it is occurring naturally, or a matter of economics. Nevertheless, it would require (i) an effective pipeline that breeds successful homegrown coaches and (ii) effective investment (financial and collective responsibility) from FIFA to support CAF and CONCAF in coaching development.  

Effective pipeline that breeds successful homegrown coaches

africa's teams and their head coaches 

Before I delve into what I think an effective pipeline could look like let’s take some comments from Didier Drogba and Laura Georges, who are pundits for the BBC at the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Drogba expressed how he saw and felt the differences when managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson, a White Swedish coach, and an Ivorian-born coach, specifically that Sven, albeit an experienced coach, didn’t have or understand the culture of the Ivorian players and this sometimes hampered the development of the team and group dynamics. Georges emphasised the point that the Moroccan players had said they love their coach Walid Regragui because he looks like them and speaks like them and, as mentioned earlier, has the pedigree of winning the CAF Champions League. This is a key point that is reinforced by Pannenborg (2010) and most recently Harding (2022) who goes on to talk about the lack of opportunities for African coaches to progress in global football in comparison to their European peers.  

My hope has always been that at least two of the African teams progress to the quarter finals and maybe semi-finals. This will hopefully signal to other African and Caribbean football associations that they should continue hiring well-qualified home coaches for their nation’s teams and extend that to the coaching staff. There are so many fitness coaches, sports psychologists, physiotherapists, etc. of African and Caribbean heritage who have the qualifications and experience to be working with their national teams.  

Having a clear strategy 

Now back to this pipeline: what will make an effective pipeline? I believe that FIFA have a big part to play here. Currently, Arsène Wenger is leading FIFA’s Talent Development Programme which now has 200 out of 211 associations on board. It seems to be a good initiative, however one of the main reasons these initiatives aren’t as effective as they could be is the lack of accountability the home associations have to FIFA, and financial power of other member associations. For example, FIFA Development Activities in Africa (1999–2012) had numerous activities, one being FIFA courses which were FIFA-run educational courses in the areas of coaching, refereeing, women’s football, futsal, administrative and medical matters. The duration of the courses varied according to the topic and financial resources of the organising member association. FIFA was responsible for appointing the course instructor and for providing teaching material and equipment. The final cost to FIFA was USD 24,700,000, and the barrier in this case is that the cost of the courses is based on the financial resources of the organising member association. How many member associations in Africa or the Caribbean have the financial power that the European, Oceania or North American associations have? As a result, what CAF will offer will be limited and therefore reducing the opportunities for local coaches and other professional to develop. It’s very vague on how the Talent Programme will be evaluated. 

FIFA will need to support the member associations not just with these development programmes but with a robust overseeing and allyship of their domestic leagues. Just by looking at the leagues in Europe the opportunities for coaches to come through the system, such as academy coaching to lower leagues to higher leagues, to coaching in other European countries, to coaching a national team, has to be mirrored in the Caribbean and Africa. Currently those opportunities don’t exist in abundance and therefore even after you have gained a professional coaching licence your routes are limited.

This is not to suggest that the African and Caribbean associations abdicate their responsibilities of being their own custodians. We cannot allow the ‘norms’ such as corruption, poor leadership, poor infrastructure to derail us or be used as an excuse that we cannot be allowed to govern ourselves without our colonial masters overlooking and assisting us in our development. One recommendation would be for member associations to work with African and Caribbean diaspora who live in Europe who have set up programmes that may be beneficial to coaching development. Madalitso Mkoloma, who is of Barbados and Malawian heritage, is a senior academy scout and coach at Queens Park Rangers FC in England and the Director of the International Football Heritage Agency. He talks about how his agency has been influential in identifying players of Caribbean heritage and providing them with opportunities to train and represent their countries of heritage. Consequently, they are now providing the same opportunities for coaches.  

PDF document Transcript 428.0 KB

This is for me a key point which has been reinforced by Drogba (ASCI, 2021) that African and Caribbean football associations must invest in human capital to be more successful. He states sport has such a positive impact on the physical and mental health of the population which also coincides with social cohesion and job creation. Yet, more importantly organisations must adopt standards of good governance. Coincidentally one of the key recommendations from the ASCI report is train and inform: make the most of the human capital. We hope that the associations start to invest more in their coaches and their development so that at the next AFCON 2023, Gold Cup 2023 and the next World Cup 2026, 80% or more of the Africa and the Caribbean associations will be led by head coaches who are natives of their countries ably supported by a team of professionals who are also natives of their countries. That to me would be a positive legacy of Qatar 2022 for coaching in Africa and the Caribbean.  

Further reading and references

African Sports and Creative Institute & Mazars (2021) The Sports ecosystem in Africa: a potential development lever  

FIFA (n.d.) FIFA Development Activities in Africa 1999-2012 

IslandStats (2017) Interview with Maurice Lowe 

Harding, W (2022) Will AFCON 2021 impart a coaching legacy?  

Pannenborg, A (2010) “Football in Africa” NCDO series ‘Sport & Development’  



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