The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be historic for the African continent as all five representatives for the quadrennial extravaganza will be handled by local coaches.
Although it is a source of pride, it is also the first time that all African teams have called on local tacticians to lead their respective campaigns, with coaches Otto Addo, Aliou Cisse, Rigobert Song, Walid Regragui and Jalel Kadri having a fine opportunity to make a stronger case for homegrown solutions.
- Walid Regragui, Morocco
Morocco will be led by Walid Regragui who joins a stellar cast of other African coaches to lead their countries. This is a massive step for the growth of African coaches, who have now gathered the courage to take over at the highest level.
The 47-year-old trainer, a former Morocco international who amassed 45 caps for the national team, took over from Vahid Halilhodžić who had helped the team to secure qualification for Qatar. He took over the Atlas Lions after a successful season in the Moroccan top flight where he led Wydad Athletic Club (WAC) to the CAF Champions League title and the local championship. He however faces a bigger challenge in Qatar as the Moroccans have been pooled in Group F with Croatia, Belgium and Canada.
Born in Corbeil-Essonne in the Southern suburbs of France, Morocco coach Regragui started his career playing for several French clubs, including Toulouse, Ajaccio, Dijon and Grenoble. He earned his caps for the Moroccan national team as well.
After retiring from football, 46-year-old Regragui began his coaching career as an assistant coach with the Moroccan national team in 2012-2013 under Rachid Taoussi. He went on to become the head coach of FUS Rabat until 2020 when he moved to Qatar to coach top tier side Al Duhail.
- Aliou Cissé, Senegal
African champions, Senegal, have been led by a local coach since 2015 when Aliou Cissé was handed the mantle. The decision paid off eight years later when the former national team captain led the Teranga Lions to their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations title and was also named the African Coach of the Year at the CAF Awards in July this year.
Now, the veteran coach leads the Teranga Lions to the World Cup for the second straight time, having led the team to qualify for the 2018 showpiece in Russia. Senegal earned qualification after turning round a first leg loss to Egypt’s Pharaohs, winning 3-1 on post-match penalties following a 1-1 aggregate draw.
- Rigobert Song, Cameroun
Rigobert Song is not new to the FIFA World Cup. He played for Cameroun in the 1994 tournament in USA and at the next two tournaments in 1998 and 2002 and returned in 2010 as the most experienced player in the tournament and made just 27 minutes appearance against the Netherlands after which he called time on his international career.
For many years as the mainstay of the Indomitable Lions as the captain, 46-year-old Song returns to football’s biggest stage in a leadership position but from the touchline, a position he had held since his appointment on February 28, 2022. Song goes down in history as the second Camerounian coach (after the late Léonard Nseke who took the team to USA ’94) to have helped the Indomitable Lions qualify for the global showpiece.
Song’s team qualified for Qatar after overturning a 1-0 first leg defeat at the hands of Algeria to win 2-1 in the corresponding fixture in Algiers and qualified on the away goals rule. The valuable World Cup ticket proved to be the result the veteran needed to silence the doubters who had already queried the decision to hire him as national coach.
- Jalel Kadri, Tunisia
Local boy Jalel Kadri helped Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles to the FIFA World Cup for the sixth time in their history. Appointed national team coach following their elimination from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroun, Kadri embarked on a quick rebuilding mission and helped his country rise from that disappointment to qualify for the World Cup. The Tunisians waded off the young side of Mali to qualify with a slim 1-0 aggregate score.
The 50-year-old coach becomes the third local tactician after Abdelmajid Chetali (1978) and Nabil Maâloul (1998) to help Tunisia qualify for the FIFA World Cup.
- Otto Addo, Ghana
Ghana’s Otto Addo displayed a brave coaching mettle to aid the Black Stars to the FIFA World Cup after victory over the highly fancied Nigeria in March, this year.
The former national star, who played for Ghana at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, was named head coach of the Black Stars shortly after their elimination from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, taking over from Serbian Milovan Rajevac, whom he previously served as assistant coach.
A 1-1 draw in Abuja following a 0-0 stalemate in Kumasi earned Ghana a ticket to the World Cup against all odds, with Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, appealing to the country’s FA to retain Addo to lead Ghana’s World Cup campaign.
Otto Addo guided Ghana to qualify for the World Cup against all odds after edging out Nigeria on the away goal's rule after a 1-1 aggregate score.
The 46-year-old tactician, who is also an assistant coach at German Bundesliga side, Borussia Dortmund, managed to put up a perfect tactical plan to outshine a hugely talented Nigerian squad and now has everything to prove when he leads the Ghanaian side in Qatar.
The presence of the five African coaches at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar represents a giant step towards the development of African football.
This is enough proof that local expertise can also work well when and if given a chance. This will be an opportunity for the whole world to discover the ability of African tacticians and also a nod of approval to the training programme for African coaches at the Pro Licence of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
The programme, launched for the first time in 2018, aims to obtain the highest certification of the CAF coach education system, the qualification of top level coaches in the world. --cafonline.com