Hubert Velud has coached across Africa
He is now tasked with leading Sudan
He discusses their hopes of reaching the AFCON and Qatar 2022
Hubert Velud began his coaching career with small clubs in the French second and third divisions, before embarking on an adventure in a continent known for its unique footballing traditions. Ten years after leading Togo, the Frenchman continues to coach in Africa, having fallen in love with his adopted continent and enjoyed a great deal of success there.
As a former goalkeeper, Velud was always able to read the game and observe players. This has given him an acute sense of tactical awareness and helped him develop a successful philosophy that has made him one of the most sought-after coaches in Africa.
“To coach in Africa, you need to love the continent first and foremost, and to adopt a flexible mindset," Velud told FIFA.com. "You also need to have a desire to explore and discover the countries where you work.
"Coaching in Africa has brought me a lot of success, especially in Algeria, which got my foot in the door before I went on to win the CAF Champions League with TP Mazembe. That title landed me lots of coaching offers, but all this came about because I love and appreciate Africa.
“I know African football very well, be it in the north, on the coast or sub-Saharan Africa. I took charge of several clubs in Algeria including Entente Sportive Setifienne, USM Alger and CS Constantine. I also had stints in Morocco and Tunisia where I managed Etoile du Sahel, as well as TP Mazembe and the Togolese national team. I believe my experience on the continent will help Sudan, despite the differences between coaching clubs and national teams.”
“When we play the AFCON or World Cup qualifiers, we’ll face strong teams with vast experience. These will be very special games where knowledge of African football will come in handy.”
Despite the fact that Sudan have never appeared in the FIFA World Cup™ and have only made a handful of AFCON appearances, its population is football-crazy. The most important match in the country is the Al-Merrikh-Al Hilal derby, which gets enormous media coverage and embodies the Sudanese people’s genuine passion for the beautiful game.
“I was brought into Sudan in February to channel the spirit of the Sudanese team, with football being so important here,” Velud said. “The good thing is that the majority of the squad play for Al-Merrikh, Al Hilal and a few other clubs so we can organise training sessions whenever we want.
"Actually, this is what we did when we had two camps in February and March and another one this month. We have got the approval from all clubs to take players into camps, which is unusual for national teams.”
For the African qualifiers for Qatar 2022, the Falcons of Jediane will have their work cut out, having been pitted against Morocco, Guinea and Guinea Bissau.
“It’s a very tough group," the 61-year-old conceded. “Unlike us, our three opponents took part in the most recent Africa Cup of Nations. We’ll fight ‘til the end but our main goal is to make the continental finals, because our group in the AFCON qualifiers is easier than for the World Cup. We’ll basically use the World Cup qualifiers to prepare for the AFCON qualifiers and if we manage to spring a surprise, that would be great.”
“We know that our games with Morocco and Guinea will be very difficult. Both teams have players in Europe. We’ll be taking things one game at a time and will fight our hardest to end up in a good spot in the table. I think Morocco are favourites to qualify as group leaders, but the qualifiers will be tough as stadiums will be packed and competing in Africa is never easy.”
Which nations does Valud believe will represent the continent he loves at Qatar 2022?
“I think it’ll be difficult on all teams," he said. "You have to qualify as group leaders first and then there are the play-offs. There won’t be much room for slip-ups.
"I think Algeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Egypt, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria are favourites to qualify for the World Cup. Morocco could also make it, but they will have some trouble against those teams I just mentioned.”