Controversy has reared its ugly head just two weeks before the start of the Africa Cup of Nations’ soccer championship in South Africa.
Nigerian coach, Stephen Keshi, is concerned that he and his African counterparts are not given the same respect as White coaches on the continent. He claims they are doing the job just for the money.
“They are not doing anything that we cannot do,” said Keshi, who helped Nigeria win the 1994 regional tournament. “I am not racist, but that’s just the way it is.”
Uganda’s Scottish coach, Bobby Williamson, disagrees with Keshi.
“I never came here for the money,” said Williamson. “I came here for the job, for a new experience and a new working place. I never regretted it. When I first came here, the money being paid was just enough to pay the mortgage. It has improved because I have been relatively successful.
“We are all professionals. If he could get a better job in Europe and earn better money, then I’m sure he would be off like a shot. It’s just like most African players who are playing in Britain. They are not just there for the love of soccer. They are there to make money – they are professionals.”
Zambia won its first Africa Cup of Nations title last year under Frenchman, Herve Renard.
Keshi, who assumed the role of Nigeria’s coach in November 2011 after been fired as Mali’s coach 21 months earlier, was also critical of the way some of the continent governing bodies treat Black coaches.
“When federations employ African coaches, they want them to win the World Cup, the African Cup of Nations and every game,” he said. “Meanwhile, if you give a White person the same job, you tell that person they need one year to adapt, to know the country and the players. They are told, ‘don’t worry, take your time’. That is unprofessional and is one thing that is killing African soccer.”
Of the 16 coaches in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament, seven are from Africa while the remainder are from Europe and South America.
A total of 13 African coaches have had success in African premier tournaments compared with 15 foreign coaches.
Meanwhile, Swedish-born midfielder, Yusuf Salah, is included in Ethiopia’s squad for the Africa Cup of Nations competition that starts on January 19. The 28-year-old is one of three foreign-based players in the line-up.
Saladin Said, who plays for Egypt’s Wadi Degla and winger, Fuad Ibrahim, who is with Minnesota Stars of the North American Soccer League are also on the 23-member squad. The rest of the players are from Ethiopia’s top clubs, Saint George and Dedebit.
A founding member of the Confederation of African Soccer, Ethiopia competed in the first Nations Cup competition in 1957. The country won the tournament in 1962 but has failed to qualify for the finals since 1982.
Ethiopia is in the same group with reigning champions Zambia, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.
In other soccer news, winger Andre “Dede” Ayew has been dropped from Ghana’s team after failing to report to training camp last Monday for a hamstring injury to be assessed by a medical team. He did not show up despite being released by French club Marseille and provided with an airline ticket to fly to Abu Dhabi, where the Ghanaian squad is preparing for the tournament.
“In line with my vision of taking only fit players for theAfrica Cup of Nations, I have decided to work only with the players currently in camp,” said coach, Kwesi Appiah. “I have personally explained the rationale behind the decision to Andre and I will continue to count on him in future matches if he is fit.”
Ayew is the son of three-time Africa Soccer Player of the Year, Abedi Pele.
Ghana begins its Nations Cup campaign on January 20 against the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo before facing Mali and Niger in Group “B”.
By RON FANFAIR