The recently wrapped up 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Africa threw the spotlight on coaches once again and none made the headlines in the biggest way than Algeria’s Djamel Belmadi. Seeing players stretched out on playing surfaces with hands on heads after missing out on a title or crucial win is quite common but what isn’t common is Coaches reacting the same way or even worse.
Having watched Cameroon snatch a World Cup berth from him in a matter of seconds, Belmadi couldn’t withstand the extreme emotional stresses and gave in to them by breaking down inconsolably on the pitch.
Speaking of Coaches, “Ma Try Ma Kw3” is a phrase used to describe an unproven person particularly a football coach in Ghana’s Ga language and over the past seven months, the phrase has been embedded deep in the football jargon of many a Ghanaian.
The phrase was infamously used by Ghana Football Association (GFA) President Kurt Okraku to describe former Black Stars Head Coach CK Akonnor at the introductory press conference of Milovan Rajevac.
The Serb had been appointed as Akonnor’s replacement following an unconvincing run of games in charge but what made the GFA President’s use of the phrase to describe Rajevac as a non “Ma try ma Kw33” coach shocking, was Akonnor’s near decade run as head coach of several Ghanaian Top flight league clubs.
In the aftermath of a disastrous campaign at the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, Rajevac got sacked and Otto Addo got the nod as the interim Head Coach in the face of significant interest from Ghana’s government for veteran trainer Chris Hughton as Black Stars Head Coach.
Addo was unproven as they come at this level of Coaching and fit the “My Try Ma Kw3” category perfectly unlike CK Akonnor. Fast forward two important games and a handful of training sessions under Addo and the Black Stars are heading to Qatar after booking a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
While not new to the National Team Job, Rigobert Song isn’t exactly one you would classify as a Non “My Try Ma Kw3” or a proven Coach at the international level. As such, his appointment as Head Coach of Cameroon was met with shock as his appointment came mere weeks after the Indomitable Lions placed third at the 2021 AFCON.
That decision looked silly after Cameroon played averagely at home in a 0-1 loss to Algeria but redemption for Football President Samuel Eto’o and his long time national team mate came in Cameroon’s stunning 2-1 win in Algeria to book a place in Qatar.
At the time of his appointment as Head Coach of Senegal’s National Team, Aliou Cisse was a “Ma Try Ma Kw3” Coach who only had a brief run in charge of Senegal’s Under 23 national side prior. In his seven year tenure, Cisse has guided the Teranga Lions to two AFCON Final games winning one in the process and just added a second World Cup qualification to his CV after beating Egypt on penalties for the second time in the space of two months.
In a nutshell, these World Cup qualifiers have been very kind to young former African players turned Coaches; three out of Africa’s five spots at the World Cup have been picked up by these guys with the remaining spots picked up by your prototype veteran Head Coaches in Tunisia’s Jalel Kadri and Morocco’s Vahid Halilhodzic.
But why the sudden success of these young chaps on the sidelines; for starters making bold decisions with personnel and tactics immediately comes to mind. Addo for instance, learnt from his mistakes in Ghana’s first leg goalless draw against Nigeria by making three quick substitutions at half time to shore up Ghana’s backline. By switching to a 5-4-1 formation and taking off Jordan Ayew and Fatawu Issahaku in the process, Ghana gained a steady footing in the middle and defence while maintaining a legitimate counter attacking threat when Osman Bukari was brought on.
Recognizing the defensive strengths of the often maligned Andy Yiadom, versatility of Dennis Odoi to play at left full back and the ball retention ability of debutant Elijah Owusu, Addo wasted little time to effect those changes at a crucial moment in the game in a hostile environment; that takes a whole lot of balls. There is a strong school of thought such bold decisions taken by Addo was down to his short shell life in charge. As a clear interim Coach, he had room to be less conservative and take big risks a coach with less leeway normally would.
Against Algeria in the second leg, Cameroon did a better job defensively to win headers on Algeria set pieces and crosses while displaying better positioning and calmness rather than an almighty scatter gun scramble after losing possession on counter attacks. While Algeria’s goal came from a free header inside the box from a corner kick, it was clearly down to fatigue deep in extra time of an absorbing contest.
Though the sample size of success remains quite small for these near novices (Addo, Song) in the trade of coaching at this level of football and could be exposed in a larger sample size of games, the recent success of former players on the sidelines in Africa is a band wagon worth hoping on. With tickets booked to Qatar, it is “Ma Try Ma Kw33 Nation” to the World.
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