Nigerian national soccer team coach, Stephen ‘Okechukwu’ Keshi, is indeed a man who can attest to the ill-treatment of local coaches by the national federations. He has endured a lot in his coaching career but, at the same time, proved many critics wrong by achieving what many coaches failed.
In the run up and during Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) he was written off by his own Federation who booked their return flights to Nigeria just after the quarter finals because his team was not seen as good enough to proceed to the next stage.
His critics are now eating humble pie as he became the second African to win the Africa Cup of Nations both as a coach and player.
The team that Keshi defeated in the finals, Burkina Faso, are coached by a European, Paul Put from Belgium where, a few years ago he was implicated in match fixing scandals. He was suspended for three years and now is being given a chance in Africa, despite his tainted curriculum vitae.
It would, however, be a miracle if a European country would give an African with such background a chance.
Keshi on the other hand is one of the many examples of African coaches who are rarely given a chance to coach their teams. But when such a chance comes by, support becomes a problem in most cases.
Most African Football federations prefer foreign coaches, especially from Europe, to lead their teams although most of them are not as qualified as African ones. Even here in Botswana local coaches who have been at the helm of the national team have complained of lack of support.
The current national coach, Stanley Tshosane, has been complaining about lack of adequate preparations. A typical example was just last week when the team went to play a friendly with Zimbabwe. Some teams refused to release the players and Tshosane fumed knowing that he would get the blame if the team did not do well.
Before he was hired, many people also did not have faith in him, but he silenced them by taking Botswana to their maiden appearance at last year’s AFCON.
The incentives that he currently gets are far way below compared to his predecessors that were from Europe.
But the Europeans failed to reach where a local coach has.
Former technical Director of Botswana Football Association and a coach, Losikalame Keatlholetswe, concurs that Federations across Africa do not give local coaches a chance to coach their national teams. He says it is about time local coaches led their teams because they understand a lot that outsiders do not.
“There is this perception that an outsider is better than a local, but once given a chance, locals outmaneuver outsiders. The typical example is here in Botswana. Look at what Tshosane did with the Zebras and even when David Bright was coaching the under 23, he was doing very well. This is something that foreigners failed to do. If we give our locals a chance they will do well,” he said.
Keatholetswe also gave the example of Keshi, whom he said gave Nigeria what they missed for 19 years.
“The last time Nigeria won Afcon was in 1994 and Keshi was the captain. He is now the coach and they have won it. This shows something in local coaches. Local coaches should not be given unrealistic targets whereby they are appointed today and expected to win big the following day.
They should be given ample time,” he said. Keatholetswe also pointed out that Botswana has many qualified coaches who can do the job very well. He said many former players in Botswana have gone into coaching in good numbers.
One local coach, who preferred anonymity, told Sunday Standard that most foreign coaches that come to Botswana are mediocre. He said there is less to learn from them because they are not qualified. Some foreign coaches who coached the Zebras and even local teams are mercenaries’ who did not even deserve to set their feet here. What they offer leaves a lot to be desired but they get what local coaches can only dream of. Tshosane has proved that local coaches are capable and there should always be local coaches for the national team,” he said.