Three years after hanging up his boots for the last time, Aboubacar ‘Titi' Camara has been named coach and national technical director of the Syli Nationale by the Guinea Football Association. The 36-year-old will be charged with reviving a team floundering one place off the bottom of their qualifying group for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Before the appointment, Camara had struggled to find time to spare between his duties as president of AS Kaloum Star, the Guinean club where he began his career, and head of a telephony business. That all changed when fate intervened. "I never applied for the job - destiny caught up with me," the former Syli captain told FIFA.com. "In my head I've been a businessman since retiring, as the chief executive of a company and president of a club. But when your country comes calling, it's impossible to say no."
During his heyday as a player, Camara was known above all for his incredible acceleration. The erstwhile striker made a big impression at both Marseille and Liverpool, but this will be his first foray into the world of coaching. Despite that, the Conakry insists he has nothing to fear as he takes up the reins from Robert Nouzaret.
"It's going well for the moment, even though I'm barely starting to realising what a difficult job it is. When you're a player, you don't grasp the tension," he said, before adding with a laugh, "After the match against Angola, I needed sedatives! Preparing for games, making speeches, organising training sessions, advising players - those are all new and not very easy things, especially given my personality. I have trouble holding myself back."
'Lots to teach'
The ex-Lens forward can nonetheless call upon plenty of qualities to cope with the pressure, all gained during his years terrorising defences. "I played for big clubs and that helps, obviously," he explained. "Added to that, I'm in good hands with two experienced assistants. The coaching staff is excellent. We'll find the right way to prepare for games and get the players in the best possible condition. I know the players and I have lots to teach them, both on and off the pitch."
Camara is certainly no stranger to the national set-up, having represented his country 56 times between 1992 and 2004 and registered a total of 23 goals, including three at the 2004 CAF African Cup of Nations. "Our initial goal is the 2010 Cup of Nations," he continued, aware that first place in his side's FIFA World Cup qualifying section is now virtually beyond reach. "We had to take stock and after four defeats and a draw in our last five matches, it's obvious work needs to be done. Our priority is the defence because we concede too many goals."
The outlook is far from completely gloomy, however, and the Syli enjoy a reputation for technical excellence, even if they are also known for their inconsistency. Star player Pascal Feindouno embodies both those traits. "I'm satisfied with the 0-0 in Angola and the defensive work that was put in, especially by Pascal as it sometimes gets said that he doesn't like to get involved in that area. We've already put some things right and now we have to improve the forward line because we lack maturity and a goalscoring instinct."
Time is against them and nothing short of victory will suffice against Malawi in Conakry on 21 June, with Camara desperate to boost his team's points tally and their confidence following a 4-2 reverse in Burkina Faso and a 2-1 home loss to Côte d'Ivoire in their last two outings. "I'll have to rely on players who are ready physically and mentally because we only have four games left and we want nine points from them," added the coach. "I need guys who are ready for the challenge."
Above all, Camara will be hoping his charges can learn to take to the field with his own thirst for victory. "Qualifying for a final phase is good, but given our potential and our squad, Guinea need to be more ambitious. You have to finish in the first three at major tournaments to go down in history."
With such lofty aims, Titi may well succeed in once again carrying his country to greater heights, just as he did while sporting Guinean colours in front of goal.