AFCON 2023, A Ruthless competition

Football is a result oriented game. When the results don’t go your way you throw in the towel. This is the case with the current African Cup of nations 2023 holding in the Ivory Coast. Of the 24 coaches at the starting block, six were either axed from their position or throw in the towel because of poor results.

In the group stages alone, six coaches lost their jobs. Chris Hughton of Ghana, Algeria’s Djamel Belmadi, Jean Louis Gasset of Ivory Coast, Adel Amrouche, Jalel Kadri of Tunisia and Tom Sainfiet of the Gambia. One More coach, Aliou Cisse of Senegal could also join the train after Senegal was eliminated in the 8th finals by the Ivory Coast.

Not all of these coaches were demised, some voluntarily left their positions. But one come denominator was poor results.  This may not be all, we may still have more dismissal or resignations before the end of the completion on February 11, 2024.

The first Coach to be sent packing was Tanzania’s Adel Aroumche. The Algerian was sacked by the Tanzanian Football Association following an eight month suspension by CAF following comments he made about Morocco, a result of an old rivalry between the two North African countries. His team exited the competition at the earliest stage.

Next on the chopping block was French Man Jean Louis Gasset. The Ivory Coast secured only one win in the group stages, losing 4-0 in the last group game to Equatorial Guinea and had to rely on luck elsewhere to make it into the last 16, as the last of the four best losers. He was immediately shown the door while the Ivorian anxiously await the fate of the team as the rest of the groups completed their fixtures.

The Ghana FA did not waste time to act. Immediately Ghana failed to make it into the next round, Chris Hughton was immediately axed from his position. The Black Stars ended the group stage with a mere two point, not enough to see them through. From this there was only one way out for Hughton.

After their shocked 1-0 loss to Mauritania, Algeria did not waste time to part company with the man that won the trophy in 2019. This was clear, that when you don’t produce the results, step aside for another coach to try.  Djamal Belmadi took the desert foxes to the submit of African Football in 2019, exited the competition at the group stage in 2021 and this time it was minor Mauritania that show them the way out. There was clearly a diminishing return in result.

Then there is the Belgium Tom Saintfiet. The coach that qualified the Gambian for the first time to an AFCON in 2021.  He even surprised all bookmakers to take the team to the quarter finals, but this time around left the competition with zero point after losing to Senegal (3-0) Guinea (1-0) and to Cameroon (3-2) To honour his name, he decided to resigned, four years after signing on.

Jalel Kadri of Tunisia decided to step down as head coach of his home nation after they failed to qualify for the knockout phase. He ended the group phase bottom of his pool With South Africa, Namibia and Mali with only two points. He gracefully accepted that he was no loger up to the task. Kadri had qualified his team for the World Cup in Qatar

And then there is Aliou Cisse, The man who boosts of an incredible record at the head of the Teranga Lions. 60 wins, 20 draws and 12 loses in 92 games  and a win ration of 65.2% seems to be in a Limbo. Pressure is building in some quarter for him to step down. He wants to step aside, but many in FA are still holding on with some players even putting pressure that he should stay on.

As coaches resigned or are sacked because of poor results, one place remains where this kind of outcome remains a taboos. Cameroon. Despite a poor performance by Cameroon, early elimination from the AFCON and world cup where we were promised victories, nobody seems to be taking the blame.  In 23 matches in charge of the national team, Song has won six, drawn eight and lost nine that is a win ratio of 26%, far below a D grade, but yet he is still considered work in progress.  Coaches that have won and brought Cameroon trophies were never given such latitude. Arthur Jorge, Pierre Lechantre, Valery Nepomnyashchyi, António Conceição da Silva Oliveira, Hugo Broos, Jean Paul Akono and so on. The National team has become a farm to harvest from its riches. Clearly there is something going on between the FA president and the Head coach.  In Cameroon you don’t throw in the towel, you throw down the gauntlet. Let us wait and see.

From the Editorial of Frontline on City FM Radio Saturday February 3, 2024

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