By Biosah Austin Ndubuisi
France hosted and won the World Cup in 1998.Four years after as defending champions, at the World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, France and Senegal, a small African country as far as soccer was concerned locked horns in the opening game of the tournament. Senegal won that game by a lone goal and it became one of the upsets in football history!.The captain of that Senegal side was Aliou Cisse.
Today, Aliou Cisse is in charge of the Terenga Lions of Senegal that have made it to the finals of the ongoing Total African Cup of Nations. Interestingly, amidst a plethora of foreign coaches that led various African nations to the tournament, the two finalists are being marshaled by Africans…former internationals of their teams!. But there is something very instructive about Senegal’s Aliou Cisse.
When the Senegalese Football authorities were looking for a coach to handle their National Team, the Terenga Lions, Aliou Cisse’s application was ignored. The authorities wanted a certain French foreign coach named Alain Giresse. It took the intervention of ex-internationals like El Hajj Diouf , who was a former team mate of Cisse and an influential figure for Aliou Cisse to grab the Job ahead of Alain Giresse. But it did not come without some concessions and sacrifices. Alain Giresse had put forward a wage bill running into thousands of Dollars, but Aliou Cisse said to his people,…it’s not all about the money, I want to serve my people!.
Aliou Cisse got the job and here we are at AFCON.As providence would have it, Tunisia later hired Alain Giresse who brought them to the Nations’ Cup as the second highest FIFA ranking footballing country in Africa, after the top country, Senegal. Alas, they met in the semi-finals…Senegal VS Tunisia…Cisse VS Giresse…European expert VS African ‘mediocre!. The result is now history!… Senegal won… Cisse won and will be appearing in the finals with his lads while Giresse will be hoping to see off his fellow European in Charge of Nigeria in the third place duel.
Let’s not miss something here. That’s not to say Foreign coaches do not do well on African soil… not at all. At least we can remember the glorious years of the likes of Otto Gloria, Clemence Westerhof and most notably Herve Renard, who came with Morocco and the only coach who has won the Nations’ Cup twice with two different countries-Zambia and Ivory Coast. With a coach of his caliber at this tournament and with the likes of Dutchmen Clearance Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert who came with Cameroon all out, we can see that it’s not all about foreign coaches.
My sentiments actually come from the National Anthem periods of soccer games. I go emotional when I see indigenous coaches sing their National Anthem along with their players with passion, when on the other hand, foreign coaches just gaze while their lads sing their Anthems. It tells a lot about responsibility, passion, zeal and national morale.
On the day of the finals, two local coaches will be in charge and that is a huge message for African football!.