JOHANNESBURG – Forty-five year old Herve Renard has left Chipolopolo of Zambia to take charge of top French club Sochaux having achieved what few coaches can dream of – winning the Africa Cup of Nations four months into the job.
In 2012, just a few months after being recalled to Zambia, Renard defied odds to lead Chipolopolo to their finest moment in the country’s football history. In that memorable day, they overcame fancied Ivory Coast in the coastal city of Libreville on penalties having brushed aside other fancied nations like Ghana and Mali on the way.
Football Association of Zambia President, Kalusha Bwalya, said Renard was leaving Zambia having run a great race.
The man was idolised in Zambia, a soccer-mad nation by all standards. According to Zambians, the Frenchman was to the nation what Alex Ferguson is to Manchester United.
His sudden departure however, will raise concerns normally brought up against the hiring of foreign coaches on the continent.
More often than not, most African football federations have grown a penchant of hiring foreign coaches at the expense of locals, especially European regardless of pedigree.
Most of these foreign coaches don’t have any inkling of coaching a national team and coming to Africa is purely to enhance their CVs and enjoy the continent’s sunshine.
Despite it being a given fact that no foreign national coach has ever won the World Cup, Africa seems keen on repeating the same mistake over and over again.
Granted, Renard achieved what all other Zambian coaches had failed to do in the country’s football history, but that was an exception.
Zimbabwe also had its own Special One in Reinhard Fabisch. Although the German failed to achieve anything of note, he brought the Warriors close to qualifying for both Africa Cup of Nations finals in Tunisia and the World Cup World Cup in the USA in 1994.
But such individuals are far and few between. Most come to Africa to experiment their theories, earn a quick buck and prepare themselves for better offers, if they crop up, back in Europe. Africa is purely a stepping stone.
They have no affection for the country they serve in and are prepared to sell their soul anytime. No wonder, whatever they do, they do half heartedly.
Africa needs to empower its own people and stop relying heavily on importing foreign expertise. Granted, the continent’s best players are those that have plied their trade overseas but that very same expertise should be utilised in the country of origin once their playing days are over.
Egypt showed the way a few years back when they won three consecutive African titles with the home grown coach. Ghana have been following suit and so is reigning Africa Cup of Nations Nigeria.
Bafana might be struggling to get back to where they were in 1996 but in Gordon Igesund, they will slowly get there.
A country needs an individual who does not have divided attention; one who is not caught in between when his country of birth plays against his adopted one.
If Africa is to reach the same heights as those of Europeans and South Americans, they need to invest in individuals who know the local environment.
That way, we can reach dizzy heights the great Pele predicted two decades ago but which has been as elusive as an eel.
And who said Zimbabwe cannot do the same? We need to give our own Ian Gorowa all the support.
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