The Severe Dearth of African Coaches in Europe

Teaching is one of the most impactful roles in formative society. Well involved in the societal social groups of Family, School and Friends, all these groups have an embodiment of teaching in one way or another. These teachings right through the various age ranges are not all done in the four walls of an institution. Some are done in passing, very unconsciously while others are intentionally imparted. These teachings by Parents, friends, teachers, neighbors and almost anyone of age and life experience. There’s the popular African saying that ‘it takes a family to birth a child, but the whole community to raise such child’. In this vein, anyone with experience may not be a teacher but can certainly give some advice which may turn out to shape such young person’s life positively. Teaching in Africa is almost a communal thing and one’s parents are only seen as the leaders of a pseudo team of individuals who are willing to lend a hand in the development both mentally and physically of a young person paddling away at life. Teaching in Africa can also come from the elderly individual being the voice of reason amidst a flurry of emotions from such Child. Africa is the most diverse continent yet there’s the general misconception of Europeans to refer to Africa as a single country rather than the over 50 countries that make up the continent. This diversity means that educational methods and programs are quite varied.

Coaching in football also is a way of imparting a form of development which involves providing training and guidance and a coach is involved in the direction, instruction and training of young and less experienced individuals. Coaching like teaching is taking from the wealth of experience of a trained individual and passing this knowledge of football into younger men or women in any level of football. Just like mainstream teaching, there are several methods of teaching and coaching football. However, in Africa, the same energy isn’t kept right through from mainstream teaching to coaching football and where we have diverse conventional teaching methods, the football in most African climes is either inadequately catered for or even completely abandoned. This means that as varied as the teaching methods and programs are in Africa, it has hardly reflected in the football and as much as football is concerned, we might as well just be regarded as Africa. However this isn’t entirely the Coaches’ fault as the system in most African climes still seem to regard football as only a game and working in football as something one does in one’s free time. 

Away from football for a bit, generally in Europe, blacks are obviously a minority and “blacks” include Africans and those of African descent. And as much as the United Kingdom is the most progressive of the European Union Nations, the black population in the United Kingdom is still only at about 3% and as easy as it seems to believe that equal opportunity will be available in different industries for even the blacks, it would also be a bit naïve. According to the ethnicity facts and figures, from a total working population of about 40 million people, only about 6 million are from other ethnic groups. The largest rates of unemployment were amongst the white ethnic groups with about 78.5% so this shows that in general, blacks and other minorities usually find themselves in work and aren’t particularly slothful in business. But while the UK is the most progressive, football (amongst a few other industries) is lagging behind. Football in most European countries already has a structure and starting with the academies, you’ll probably find that the kids are largely white with the token non-white person. Nowadays however, in the UK, clubs, societies and support organizations are trying as much as possible to have an all-inclusive set up to make colored individuals more comfortable, but this has hardly been passed on to the coaching levels.

When black footballers arrive in Europe, they arrive with the tag ‘pace and power’ and there’s the general feeling that they are no use technically. It’s strange because there were and are black players who were/are technically adept. There’s Yaya Toure, Clearance Seedorf, Marcos Senna just to mention a few. It is as early as this stage that it seems black ex-footballers are considered to not even be in the running for coaching roles in Europe. There’s already the general reasoning that they are unteachable and would never suit the values of the club which they play for. Further away from this, in most countries in Europe, these black players have to deal with Racism. And as much as we can say it’s significantly reduced, we still always have isolated incidents from time to time like the recent case of Raheem Sterling. Players like Didier Zokora, Samuel Eto’o, Kevin Prince Boateng, Mario Balotelli also to name very few, have gone through racism in European countries. How is it then expected of these players when they retire, to take up coaching roles at these European clubs where it looks like they will never be accepted? It’s sad to say but Racism and its forms play a subtle but underlining role in the lack of African coaches in Europe and we can even think to other jobs in football like how many black referees have we got even in the French ligue Un? 

Even if these African ex-players decide to brave it, take their badges and other qualifying exams, the football coaching mini industry isn’t like you’re hiring someone off of Linkedin or from a stack of CVs. Clubs hire based off a recommendation or someone known or someone that knows someone. Based off the Nepotism angle; they are almost never given a chance. In an industry with already slim chances of making it right from the playing days, it’s even harder to then make it as a coach. And honestly, how many black coaches do we even have in Europe, talk less of Africans. Black (African) coaches are seen as second class citizens around football and don’t get the trust they deserve. This trust, which many African coaches have complained about, very notably the Late Stephen Keshi is sometimes all you need to unearth a gem in the football industry. It is talked about that even in Africa; foreign coaches are given more time to adapt meanwhile there’s nothing the foreign coach is doing that the African coach cannot also achieve. It’s a perennial debate and many quarters have attributed it to the general attitude of Africans not believing in one another. Some countries have given ‘locals’ a shot and they haven’t regretted it with the last 3 AFCON titles by Egypt coming under a decidedly homegrown coach. It is an indictment on African football that the World cup in 2018 only had 2 African coaches of the 5 African teams represented in the summer tournament. Majority of African National teams being managed by foreigners gives the impression of lack of talented coaches in Africa.

Bringing it back home, in Africa, right from when one is young, football is seen as a form of pleasure and the concept of 22 men chasing a round leather is usually taken as unserious. So first of all, in most parts of Africa, you could have all the talent in the world and you may never play professionally. Thus the scale of playing professionally has to be hurdled at first. Then comes the challenge of coaching without ever having played the game at a Pro level and you have most African parents with discouraging comments like “No one has done it before”. With sufficient knowledge that not many Africans have been successful is more than auxiliary football jobs in Europe, most individuals find themselves hogging another line of work in no time. 

Further, these days, when African ex-pros want to go back into football after retirement whether or not immediately after playing, they’d rather go the ‘easy way’ into punditry rather than go into coaching and this is the same for both African ex-pros who have done their badges and those who haven’t. This can be likened to the general mentality of Africans I mentioned above… a mentality of not taking risks. And the fact is to have our African Jose Mourinho (who didn’t play professional football), African ex-pros need to be brave and try to make the cut in top-flight coaching so regular individuals can mirror the career steps. When will Africa be able to boast of its own Pep Guardiola, or Frank Lampard, or Steven Gerard who all took up management immediately or not too long after their playing days. Most Africans in football have a mentality of being lazy and it’s like a wait for things to be handed to one, forgetting that the same football background isn’t shared. It is true that teaching (coaching) is usually a calling; it is, however, a bit strange that most Africans do not get such call.

There’s also the small matter of the quality level of the leagues in Africa. Most of the countries in Africa cannot really boast of a league without some form of corruption or the other. For example in most Nigerian league games from the top tier down to the lowest tier, it’s almost only Home wins, hardly any away wins because the referee is a bit fearful of the home fans. Also, a lack of stable football clubs gives an impression of a lack of professionalism in African football which extends to the coaches/coaching. Apart from this, it may sound ephemeral but most African leagues are aesthetically unwatchable with terrible officiating and poor tactical nous and maneuverability from the coaches and the teams. This means that a lack of visibility through proper branding/media means there is little or no avenue to fight these negative perceptions. Most African teams, especially West African teams play the “kick and run” football, the Stoke ’09 football. Most teams find it hard to even string 10 passes. Growth in African football as a coach is very stunted and the application levels are quite basic. African football has remained underdeveloped with maybe only the Premier Soccer league of South Africa showing a few signs of promise but that has also since stagnated for a while now. The football culture in Africa is poor and handling over the reins of a club to a coach is purely based on trust; who would want to trust coaches coming out of a football culture in Africa, where even African countries haven’t even really backed their own coaches, coupled with the fact that in Europe, Football is a million times more of a serious investment than in Africa. So if coaches from the PSL are being recycled, what chance do coaches in countries like Kenya and Ivory Coast possess?

The coaching qualification processes also do not help matters and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) licenses are well inferior to that of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). The CAF C license, which is the minimum one must possess to guarantee practice is Africa. It’s a two-week course and participants must practice for at least two years before going for the CAF B license. On the other hand, UEFA’s Level 1 takes more than a couple of weeks and it is more suited to footballing in the local communities. The Level 2 in UEFA is usually done for 3 years but can be completed in 6 months and at this point, you can participate in Academies and US Soccer Camps. These 2 levels are almost nonexistent in Africa and most African coaches are well rubbed of a pseudo background guide to coaching. The UEFA B license and the CAF B license are nowhere near being at par with each other. The latter is completed in 2 weeks and requisite practice is for a year while the former is usually completed in 2 years. The UEFA A license then allows for individuals to be Academy managers and in 2 years can then take their UEFA Pro License which is the final hurdle. With CAF, from the 2 year practice of the CAF B, individuals can take the CAF A, it’s for a month and can then be allowed to partake in CAF organized competitions. So overall, the CAF processes are a far cry to those standards in Europe and it’s almost easy to now see why there aren’t many African coaches in Europe.

Conclusively, it seems like nature is just generally against having African coaches in Europe but that’s a fallacy or hasty generalization. Both Africans in Africa and in diaspora need to be put under the same microscope as the African football system and there may be a need for a total revamp of the coaching qualification systems. The mentality towards football back in Africa also needs to change as well as the inclusion of local communities in development. The quality, officiating and organization of African leagues need to evolve and there needs to be a movement away from money oriented results to more selfless acts in the pursuit of development. This way, when Africans are honest with themselves and the world can see a change, Racism would be a longshot at denying brilliant African individuals a shot at coaching.