On Target
June 23, 2006
32 teams, not one black head coach

by Earle Paynter

The 2006 FIFA World Cup finals have taken centre stage and football fans all over the world are glued to their television sets to see their favourite team(s) play.

But as I sit and look at the various matches, not as a supporter of any particular team, but from the position of a coach, something was missing. Of the thirty-two (32) Teams taking part in the FIFA World Cup finals, there is not one (1) Black Head Coach.{{more}}

FIFA spends thousands of dollars every year on all their affiliates throughout the world, training their technical and administrative staff. This is done because FIFA wants the respective federations to build capacity so as to reduce and finally eliminate the dependency on foreign technocrats. But, sometimes, we wonder if these programmes are having any impact on the respective federations.

Once the World Cup preliminaries get going and the local coaches have taken the teams to the semi-final round of the competition, there is an invasion of white, foreign, mostly European technical directors and head coaches, who target African and Caribbean Countries looking for the top coaching jobs. At this point the local coaches are deemed not good enough to take the team any further.

Why is this so? Are there not qualified local coaches, or are the federations still stuck in the mindset, foreign is better? Unfortunately, African and Caribbean Countries have a history of unstable federations and seem to be easily out foxed by these foreign technicians.

Many, if not most of these coaches are no more qualified than the local ones, the Caribbean and Africa have numerous qualified coaches capable of taking their national teams to a World Cup final.

The tenure of these foreign coaches is seldom more than two (2) years. When the World Cup is finished, they pack their bags, pocket their fat US dollar checks and off they go looking for another federation to “Suck Dey Eye”. The federations are left with little or none of the money which FIFA gives them every year in their bank accounts.

I have made the point over and over to local football officials, that the minimum time any foreign coach should spend working with the National Teams is three (3) years. During that time he would have worked along with the local coaches developing them so when he leaves, they would take over as Head Coaches.

Jamaica is possibly the only Caribbean Country that can boast of accomplishing this. Coach Rene` Semoes went to Jamaica in 1994, set up a National Programme, took Jamaica to the 1998 World Cup finals in France. He then left football in the capable hands of the local Jamaican coaches. My good friend, Wendell Downswell, is now Jamaican’s Technical Director, and football in Jamaica continues to progress positively.

Recently St. Kitts has also taken the bold step in appointing former SVG Head Coach, Jamaican Coach Lennie Taylor as its Technical Director. His programme will be the same as in Jamaica – set up programmes, train local coaches, then have a local coach take over when he leaves in three years time.

I have had the opportunity to attend many International Coaching Symposiums and Conventions, at some of which I presented papers on football and had the opportunity to meet some of the world’s top coaches. At these football gatherings African and Caribbean coaches have always come in for high praises, as a matter of fact, at one symposium one of the top coaches in the world said openly, and I quote “We are no better coaches than you, the only minor advantage we have over you African and Caribbean coaches is experience, and that is because we do this job everyday for a living”. This same coach was my instructor and is now in Germany as Head Coach of one of the top seeded teams.

At the end of this World Cup, when all is said and done, there is time for reflection, I would hope that the African and Caribbean Countries would have a serious critical analysis of the state of football in their respective countries and then decide if there is room for local black head coaches.

Note: Much credit to T&T on their performance at the World Cup. However, for those who were wishing for that miracle, T&T making it to the second round, remember, we in the Caribbean are not quite at that level of technical ability and playing experience. T&T could never have soaked up all that offensive pressure for three consecutive games and come out victorious.

At the World Cup level when a good team plays bad, luck always favours them, look at the number of good teams that have played bad matches so far, but eventually win the game.

T&T is not a stronger team than Team SVG. Team SVG failed to prepare, you can’t have ten (10) clear chances in one game and don’t convert at least four (4). T&T prepared so they made it to Germany.