Inspiration drawn from African Technical Directors workshop 

Technical Directors from eight African MAs attend a workshop in Johannesburg in April 2018
  • FIFA Workshop for Technical Directors held recently in Johannesburg
  • Eight African member associations were represented
  • “Technical directors are the ones to lead change”

It is now over two decades since Pele famously predicted that an African team would win the FIFA World Cup™ before the turn of the last century.

That prediction went unfulfilled, of course, and since then five further World Cups have taken place, with the continent still waiting. However, a meeting of technical directors of a number of African federations recently took place with the aim of making major strides toward bringing success to football in the Mother Continent.

Speaking after FIFA’s Workshop for Technical Directors – Module 2B (Technical), which was held in Johannesburg, Dominique Niyonzima, the senior manager in the technical and development department of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), said that he was very aware that there was still a lot of work to be done. However, he is hopeful that one of the African teams at Russia 2018 will make a significant impact.

“We will have five African teams at this World Cup and it is surely our dream that one of them will make the semi-finals at least,” he said. “We have come close before, but we somehow have not done the right things at the right times in the lead up to major competitions. I think that workshops like the one are a big step in the right direction.”

At the first World Cup finals held on African soil in South Africa in 2010, Ghana came agonisingly close to becoming the first African team to advance to the last four. Denied ultimately by a Luis Suarez handball in the final moments and Asamoah Gyan’s resultant penalty miss, the Black Stars instead became the third African team to be eliminated at the quarter-final stage.

However, when the 32 best teams in the world gather in Russia later this year, the Ghanaians will be missing, having finished a disappointing third in their qualifying group behind Egypt and Uganda. For Francis Oti-Akenteng, who is technical director of the Ghana FA, that is a sign of the inconsistency they need to address. “The technical director’s role, I learned in Johannesburg, is to help with the formulation of a policy, and to make sure we have to coaches and youth programmes that can produce players to take us to the top,” he said.

Leading change
Oti-Akenteng is not the only participant who is confident that workshops such as the one held in Johannesburg will be of great benefit to African football. “We were given guidance and direction,” said Abdul Rassullassine Abdulla of Mozambique. “Now it’s up to the technical directors to implement the world-class development ideas we have been given. If we can get them going in the African associations, standards have to improve.”

The Seychelles’ Ulric Mathiot said that an emphasis on regular high-quality competitions is now needed. “If we don’t have quality leagues, we can’t expect to compete with the best in the world,” he said. “We were told repeatedly at the workshop that the best coaching and development programmes are meaningless unless they are tied to regular, appropriate matches for the players.”

FIFA’s technical consultant for the region, Govinden Thondoo, said that the role of the technical directors was important when it came to improving the game. Thondoo, who is based in Mauritius but visits all the member associations in the region, added that the technical directors needed support from their federations.

“We need the management of the associations to accept that allowing the technical directors to do their work is going to lead, in the long run, to the success of their national teams,” he said. “Workshops like the one in Johannesburg are an essential step in raising standards. But things won’t happen on their own. There needs to be a change in mindset in some cases, and these technical directors are the ones to lead that change.”

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