The 2019 edition of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations has come and gone. It is now history that Algeria are the undisputed Kings of African football following an impressive unbeaten run throughout the tournament.
It was written in the stars that Algeria would be crowned champions on Friday, 19 July, as they beat Senegal 1-0 to record their second Afcon championship. While everyone is slowly forgetting about the tournament, in anticipation of the 2019/2020 domestic league season, it is vitally important that we take stock of what happened in Egypt.
There were a number of lessons to learn from both the playing and coaching fronts. One of the biggest lessons for me has got to be the importance of celebrating, respecting and embracing our own, when it comes to coaching opportunities. It is an undisputed fact that Djamel Belmadi and Aliou Cisse emerged as two of the best coaches, having led their respective teams to the final.
Unfortunately, only one of these two African legends could be crowned champion after the final whistle. While Cisse will feel hard done by and unlucky, he also played a significant role in restoring the pride of our local coaches by beating a number of more fancied and respected European coaches to the runners-up title. The two former players are now celebrated by the whole of Africa when they have been working under strenuous and challenging circumstances with little to no regard, from their very own people, who celebrate anything European regardless of their class.
Africans hate themselves so much that they never see their own greatness. We have gems, but they’re never good enough in our own eyes until they’re diluted or bleached. A CAF Champions League-winning coach, Pitso Mosimane, is celebrated more outside of his own country than at home. Most South Africans see him as just a Mamelodi Sundowns coach, while the rest of the continent sees a master tactician and an ambassador of African football. More and more countries continue to show respect and interest even in his services because they see the gold that is treated as a rough diamond in his own country.
Dan Malesela has consistently showed how South African football should be played – it doesn’t matter where he is coaching. The former Orlando Pirates captain went on to rewrite history by becoming the first National First Division coach to win the Nedbank Cup, beating Kaizer Chiefs 1-0. This, after producing so many good footballers and playing eye-catching football, yet when it comes to important coaching roles, he’s the last one to be considered. He is never ready to coach big teams or the national team. If Dance came from any of the lower FIFA-ranked European countries, with a similar or even shorter curriculum vitae, he would easily find his way into one of the top teams or our national system by virtue of being a European. This African low self-esteem has been playing itself out in our football for years and it doesn’t look like abating anytime soon. So many European coaches have come to this country having done little to no coaching in their own countries, only to be entrusted with some of the biggest coaching jobs in the country. They get far better treatment than our own, collect millions of Rands and leave our football poorer than they’d found it.
Obviously there’s a select few that have earned their keep and they know themselves. My point is that, Africans need to introspect and start appreciating, respecting and embracing their own. “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds…” says the second paragraph of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. These two lines couldn’t be more appropriate for Africans!
This is the same as the treatment meted out to non-white people by some cashiers at retail stores. A white person is met with a bright smile and a greeting, they produce a R200 note to pay and the money is taken straight into the till. Next is a non-white – no smile, let alone a greeting, and a simple “Next!” yet the same bank note is used to pay. The only difference is that this one has to be put under scrutiny, put up in the air against the light to see if it is legit before it is put in the till. All of this is performed by a non-white. Sad reality and stuff we don’t often talk about.
When some of our own legends go out publicly to endorse a ‘European coach’ for Bafana Bafana when we have coaches who have seen and done it all, like Gavin Hunt, in our midst, then you realise just how big a problem we are faced with. Clearly it doesn’t matter what our own have done or are capable of, as long as there’s a European available, they will never be deemed good enough to be entrusted with important jobs. Theirs is to fight relegation, help promote National First Division teams before they are spat out of the system until the next rescue mission resurfaces.
Clive Barker remains the best Bafana Bafana coach, with none of the so-called big-name European coaches who came and left with big pockets after him, some of whom left our football in tatters, coming close to him. What legacy have Philippe Troussier and Joel Santana, to mention just two, left in our game? What do we really remember them about? Clive was got rid of simply because he demanded not even a fraction of what was to be paid to his European successors, which he felt was deserved. Jomo Sono, albeit as a caretaker coach, took us to the final of the 1998 Afcon and the 2002 FIFA World Cup where he was obviously sabotaged because he’s a local. It was a story of budget cuts and players going to bed early hours of the morning of an important clash against Spain – when all they needed was just a draw to go through the group stages for the first time in our history – because the powers-that-be reneged on their agreed bonus payments and therefore players had to stand up for their rights and boycott the game before they could get back to the original agreement with the association.
To this day, Jomo’s team holds the best record at the World Cup, collecting four points from a draw (2-2 v Paraguay), a win (1-0 v Slovenia), before losing (3-2) to Spain, scoring five goals in total! He’s also second behind Clive in Afcon success. What happened to him? None of the bonus fuss would have happened if a European coach was in charge of the team. What happened to Trott Moloto, Ephraim Shakes Mashaba, Mosimane, Gordon Igesund and other non-European coaches, who gave so much to our football? Let’s respect our own!
Think about it!