On Tuesday, March 29th, 2022, the FIFA World Cup African qualifiers came to an emotional conclusion. In tense encounters, Ghana and Cameroon qualified by virtue of FIFA’s away goal rule, while the African Champions had a rematch with Nations Cup finalist Egypt, winning on penalties once more.
It was easy to focus on talents like Ghana’s Thomas Partey and Senegal’s Sadio Mane as the key players in their respective victories, as it always is. But the cameraman shifts his camera to the touch line when it appears that all appellations have been bestowed to those who deserve them and, in that dugout, the best strategists are found. Four great Indigenous men stand strong among the five (5) coaches that have qualified and truly these men have African blood running strongly through their veins.
In the past, coaches of foreign descent have long dominated the world stage, even at the helm of African teams that represent the continent, but at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, we’ll see the continent’s top football minds fight head-to-head with the rest of the world for the world’s most prestigious football trophy.
However, the question remains: who are these individuals and what is their story?
ALIOU CISSÉ – Senegal
The Senegalese coach, who won the last AFCON in Cameroon in February, is perhaps the most well-known of the four. After Cisse, the Teranga Lions’ then-captain, missed a crucial penalty in a shootout in the 2002 AFCON final against Cameroon, robbing them of their championship hopes, the first taste of continental victory for the West African nation was celebrated worldwide.
The midfielder has played for French heavyweights such as PSG and Lille, as well as periods in the English Premier League with Portsmouth and Birmingham.
After an amazing run at the Africa Cup of Nations, in which he defeated Mohammed Salah’s Egypt not once, but twice, all eyes will be on Cisse. His bench and plan will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with.
OTTO ADDO – Ghana
Ghana’s Otto Addo is probably second on the list of coaches who will have the floodlights shining on their every move. The 46-year-old has become a national hero for being the first Ghanaian footballer to qualify for the World Cup both as a player and as a coach. As a player, he represented Ghana and Bramfelder SV, Hannover 96, Dortmund, and Mainz 05, among others, in Germany. In 2008, the Ghanaian-German footballer retired from playing to pursue a career in scouting and coaching. Before his current hiring and triumph as the chief strategist in the Ghanaian dugout, he held positions as a ‘talent coach’ for previous club Borussia Dortmund since April 2019 and a similar capacity at Borussia Mönchengladbach since 2017. Will Otto Addo be successful in Qatar? We are optimistic because of his talent and experience.
RIGOBERT SONG – Cameroon
The former great was appointed last month to lead Cameroon’s national football team, in what many have described as a dubious decision by the Cameroonian FA. There were doubts in the minds of several Cameroonian supporters after Song had such a short time to rally his squad following his appointment and a defeat in the first leg against African powerhouse Algeria, but Song persuaded a team made up of professionals from all over Europe that they could achieve the seemingly impossible.
“The first match taught us a valuable lesson. It was critical to use two forwards rather than one “While tactics were vital in our second-leg victory, it was the team’s mental approach that was most important,” he stated.
Along with teammates Samuel Eto’o and Jacques Songo’o, he is one of only three African players to have appeared in four FIFA World Cups (1994, 1998, 2002, and 2010). As captain of the Cameroonian team, the 45-year-old former defender won two Africa Cup of Nations in a row (2000 and 2002).
JALEL KADRI – Tunisia
This Coach is maybe the least famous compared to the three other African coaches heading to the FIFA 2022 World Cup. However, the 50-year-old also has a proven track record. His international managing career brought him to Saudi Arabia where he was at the helm of the Ansar Al Madina club. He also worked in Lebanon and in Libya with Al-Ahly Tripoli. He won his spurs on the national scene where he coached first division club ES Zarzis or Tunisian clubs like JS Kairouan.
Kadri is now tasked with leading the Carthage Eagles as far as possible at the World Cup in Qatar.
Africa will be watching and hoping that one of these heavyweights brings home silverware after no African team has been able to match or even better Ghana’s amazing run in South Africa in 2010 after reaching the FIFA World Cup quarter final stage. The continent is proud, and we will continue to watch!!