x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

African coaches hope N'Diaye's success will help their cause

Football federations on the African continent tend to look overseas for managers.

Lamine N’Diaye led TP Mazembe to the final of the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, losing 3-0 to Inter Milan.
Lamine N’Diaye led TP Mazembe to the final of the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, losing 3-0 to Inter Milan.

Among the many conspicuous firsts to be celebrated at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi last week was that an African team reached the final, and that the man overseeing TP Mazembe's progress through the semi-final was also an African.

Lamine N'Diaye, the 54-year-old Senegalese in charge of the club from the Democratic Republic of Congo, struck a blow for the coaching culture of his whole continent by guiding Mazembe to an unprecedented silver medal.

Hundreds of coaches across Africa will hope that encourages clubs, and national associations there to less instinctively turn to European or South American managers to fill senior posts, automatically seeking out what they wearily call "white witch doctors" when looking for men to build their teams.

In Africa, the apparent prejudice against African coaches in football is so widespread that it is startling: one in every two Africa Cup of Nations championships has been won by sides coached by non-African managers.

However, the disparity between black players and black managers at the elite level is a global phenomena.

In the English Premier League, where around 25 per cent of players each weekend are either black or of mixed races, no club currently employs a black manager.

In Italy and Spain's top flights, where black players make up only a slightly smaller percentage than in England, the same is true. In Serie A it always has been, and in La Liga in the last decade, the only black manager in the Primera Division has been Frank Rijkaard, the Dutchman who won two league titles and a Champions League in charge of Barcelona.

That pattern, according to many black coaches in Europe, is no coincidence.

"It is outrageous," Luther Blissett, the AC Milan and England striker of the 1980s, recently told the English newspaper The Guardian. "There are a lot of guys who I played with who would make good coaches and managers, and the opportunity was never afforded them just because of their colour. You start to think to yourself there has got to be more to it than a coincidence."

Even in France, where the representation of black players in the professional game has been higher for longer than in other European countries, fewer black players than white have graduated to top coaching jobs; of those, only Jean Tigana, now at Bordeaux and formerly at Fulham in England and Besiktas in Turkey, has been employed in major leagues outside France.

In the US, officials of American football's National Football decided that, in the area of coaching, black applicants for senior jobs were encountering prejudice.

Like football in Europe, America's most popular sport has a high number of black players but a far smaller percentage of coaches.

In 2003, the Rooney Rule was introduced, obliging clubs to interview "minority" candidates for coaching vacancies. Within three years, the number of black coaches leading NFL teams in the 32-team league rose from two to seven.

sports@thenational.ae