x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

DR Congo president calms finance row with Claude Le Roy

The preparations for the competitions hampered by spat with manager and staff were reportedly on brink of quitting.

Claude Le Roy, the Democratic Republic of Congo coach. Fadi Al-Assaad / Reuters
Claude Le Roy, the Democratic Republic of Congo coach. Fadi Al-Assaad / Reuters

JOHANNESBURG // Claude Le Roy, the head coach of the Democratic Republic of Congo, knows enough about working in African football to expect exasperating moments.

Two days before the DRC's opening fixture at the 29th African Cup of Nations, the 64-year-old Frenchman experienced a familiar episode of brinkmanship.

Certain financial agreements the playing and coaching staff believed had been made with the Congolese Federation, had not, they thought, been honoured.

Players threatened a strike, which would have put in jeopardy their participation in today's Group B fixture against Asamoah Gyan's Ghana.

It was reported Le Roy, barely arrived in the southern coastal city of Port Elizabeth, had threatened to quit. He had not, but members of his staff felt ready to leave.

It has not been an ideal build-up for a team with an abundance of talent but a long record of troubled administration.

Le Roy has been hereabout before. This is his second stint in charge of DRC, another adventure on a CV that stretches back a quarter of a century, and up and down west and equatorial Africa: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana, among other stop offs. DR Congo, formerly Zaire, presented some of the stiffer challenges. On the eve of their 2006 Cup of Nations campaign, in his first spell with them, Le Roy's players also threatened not to participate because of a payment row.

It reached the point where only once the state president had spoken to the captain in the dressing-room was the problem resolved.

Le Roy could chart out his adventures in Africa with an encyclopaedia of such anecdotes. He prefers, though, to recount his long African saga through great games and greater players.

He has worked with an influenced many, among them Gyan, when Le Roy coached Ghana.

There is a tale of brinkmanship in their shared story, too.

At the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, in Ghana, Le Roy was woken in the middle of the night about 10 days into the tournament to be told Gyan was about to quit international football.

Gyan's mother, it emerged, had received death threats, while savage local media criticism had been raining on him because of some wayward finishing.

Le Roy cajoled the player. "I felt so much for the player, and his family," Le Roy said. "But I also couldn't, as a coach, imagine the team without him in it.

"I have worked in my career with Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o and Roger Milla. I honestly put Gyan's potential at their level."

Today, with the Al Ain striker in opposition, Le Roy might momentarily wish Gyan had retired from playing for Ghana's Black Stars.

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