African Football Has a Black Coach Problem, Too

African national soccer teams are playing in the biggest African tournament on African soil. So why are all the coaches white?

Posted: 02/01/2013 02:59 PM EST
Herve Renard Zambia Football

Zambian players carry French coach Herve Renard. (Photo: REUTERS /LOUAFI LARBI /LANDOV)

No, they aren't the stern-faced, headset-wearing football coaches you're thinking of. Soccer, also known as "the world's game" is known as football everywhere else but America. And although the game and its rules are different, African football coaches are having just as much trouble as their Black gridiron counterparts when it comes to snagging prestigious coaching posts.

As Africa’s best national soccer teams square off in the African Cup of Nations tournament, some are reviving the discourse on why so many teams have chosen European coaches over homegrown talent.

Out of the 16 national teams participating in the Cup, only seven coaches are African. The remaining nine hail from Europe and other countries around the world.

The coach of Nigeria’s team, Stephen Keshi, spoke out last month, calling the white coaches opportunists that are just in the game for the money.

"The white guys are coming to Africa just for the money," he told BBC Sport. "They are not doing anything that we cannot do. I am not racist but that's just the way it is."

Others, however, place the blame squarely with the African officials who hire the European coaches. As Jimmy Kainja writes for Africa Is a Country, “African football seems to be following the path of its national economies: so many resources and human talent but always looking to the West for help. Yet Africa has a massive pool of footballers playing in the top leagues in Europe and elsewhere.”

Kainja also noted that not only were many African teams looking outside their borders for coaching talent, but the coaches they’ve been conscripting aren’t exactly the best in the business; citing choices like Nigeria’s decision to fire local coach Shaibu Amodu and hire lackluster Swedish coach Lars Lagerback in 2010.

Keshi, Nigeria’s current coach, says that the discrimination goes beyond the mere selecting of European coaches, but that the imported talent is treated differently.

"African coaches when [federations] employ them, [the federations] want them to win the World Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations and every game," Keshi told the BBC. "Meanwhile, if you give a white person the same job, you tell the white person they need one year to adapt, to know the country and the players they are told 'don't worry, take your time.'”

However, Uganda's Scottish coach Bobby Williamson balked against Keshi’s claims, saying that African coaches should step up their game if they want to steer their own teams.

"It is not about being Black or white, it is about having the qualifications," Williamson told the network. "I've got them. My UEFA license… I'm not sure that many African coaches have that qualification and that is the biggest problem. They have Confederation of African Football qualifications but I don't think they match the level of the European qualifications."

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