Africa Needs More Black Coaches!
Senegal’s Lions of Teranga have been the feel-good story at this World Cup so far. The team led by coach Aliou Cisse is on the brink of following in the path of the famous 2002 generation that famously reached the quarter-final at the 2002 edition of football’s biggest showpiece. This time around, at the time of writing this column, a task entrusted to me by our editor Vuyani Joni, Senegal have once again set the biggest stage alight after collecting more points in the first two game rounds than the rest of the four African teams combined. And one name stands out again: Aliou Cisse. He was the captain in 2002 and he is now the coach. Here is why Africa and the world need more like him…
The 42-year-old is the youngest coach in Russia, is one of only two African bosses at the tournament – the other being Tunisia’s Nabil Maaloul – and most importantly, is the only black manager at this year’s World Cup. Yes, you read right, Cisse is the only black manager out of 32 taking part in the tournament. That, despite a massive increase of black players in the tournament. Where is this huge disparity between high-quality black players and high-quality black coaches coming from? Inspired by Cisse, I did some reading on this topic and I found an eye-opening article by the BBC called ‘Why aren’t black managers invited to the party?’ What a great question. Why aren’t they? OK, you’d better sit down for the next stat. Since the World Cup expanded to 32 teams in 1998, only seven black managers have coached in the tournament. In other words, only seven out of a possible 192 coaches over the past six World Cups were black. Eight years ago, when the World Cup was held for the first time in Africa, there were no black coaches. In 1998, there were no black coaches either, despite the increase in the number of African teams, from three to five.
There seems to be a coaching stereotype that does not favour black managers. “When clubs and football associations hire coaches, they are also thinking of PR (public relations). They are worried about how the manager will be received, so they go for someone who ‘looks like a manager’ in the end,” says Simon Kuper, famous Dutch journalist and co-author of football book Soccernomics. “And that means a white man, 40 to 60 years old, and with an alpha male mentality. They play safe, because if clubs or associations go outside the template they will face criticism if results don’t go their way.” However, when the results do not go the club’s or association’s way, they face criticism anyway… Cisse himself made a plea for more black managers to coach at the top level – and be allowed to do so. “It’s true that I am the only black coach in this World Cup,” he said ahead of Senegal’s World Cup opener, as quoted by the BBC. “It’s a painful reality that annoys me. I believe that football is a universal sport. I believe that skin colour has little importance in the game. It is good to see there is a black coach but, beyond football, it shows we have quality coaches. I represent a new generation that would like to have its place in African and world football.”
Amen, Aliou Cisse!
Keep on preaching!
But the lack of top-level black coaches in football is not only a common trend at the World Cup. At the Africa Cup of Nations in 2017, only three out of 16 teams had a black manager. This stat surprised me and, more than anything, holds a mirror right in front of our very own eyes. It proves that CAF, the African federations and clubs need to do more to educate black coaches, to bring them through to the top. A research study conducted in English football across the four professional divisions in 2017/18 found that only three black or minority ethnic managers were in charge across the 92 clubs. Brighton & Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton was the only one in the Premier League, while at least 25% of professional footballers in England are black. Another example used by the BBC was the fact that Brazil, the most successful nation in World Cup history, never had a black manager at a World Cup, despite relying on non-white players such as Pele, Garrincha, Romario and Ronaldinho when lifting their five trophies, in addition to a mixed-race population of over 50% (47% of them black).
But let us return our focus to Cisse, because his heroics, which may still end in a heartbreak in Senegal’s final group match against Colombia, need to be celebrated! Not only is he the youngest coach in Russia, not only is he the only black manager, he is also the least paid coach, earning about£174500 (R3 million) a year, according to the Daily Mirror. That is about a 10th of what Egypt pay Hector Cuper, who guided his side to three defeats and a World Cup exit without a single point. In conclusion, I want to use Cisse’s words: “In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead!” Amen to that. Africa and world football need more black coaches!
For the love of the game,
for the love of Africa,