- Sebastien Migne was assistant to Claude Le Roy for nine years
- He assumed his first head coaching role in 2018
- Frenchman hopes to rise to the challenge of Qatar 2022 qualifiers
Equatorial Guinea is one of the least populated countries in Africa, with recent estimates suggesting that less than two million people live in the west African country, compared to more than 100 times that number in Nigeria. As a consequence, far fewer people are involved in football there than in places like Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria, which in turn makes the task facing its national teams and coaches that much more difficult.
Despite this difficulty, Sebastien Migne accepted the challenge of coaching the national team of Equatorial Guinea, a beautiful coastal nation and the only one in Africa with Spanish as one of its official languages. In an interview with FIFA.com, the Frenchman revealed his reasons for accepting the job, saying: “When I was the head coach of Kenya, I realised how difficult it was to play against Equatorial Guinea, which means that their squad has some good potential. So I said to myself, ‘maybe I can do something with that team’, and that’s why I accepted the challenge."
It is understandably tough to find enough quality players in a country of less than two million people. Asked about how he addressed that issue, Migne said: "At first, I didn’t have enough time to consider new players, so I stuck with the available squad. Later, I visited every part of the country, trying to find local players, exactly what I used to do with Claude Le Roy.
"While we have some European-based players, circumstances in Africa make it difficult for them to adapt. Therefore, I’m focusing on finding the best local players, even if the coronavirus is currently delaying that project,” he added.
Nine years with veteran Le Roy
After ten years working in France, Migne decided to become Le Roy’s assistant in 2008, when the latter was appointed as head coach of Oman. Migne went on to spend nine years with his countryman before going it alone as head coach of Congo.
Recalling his time with his compatriot, Migne said: "With Le Roy I learned how to work outside one’s home country and that football is an international sport and not limited to France, where I’d previously worked. He taught me how to discover international football and how to appreciate other cultures. We started with Gulf countries where we got a taste of Arab culture, before moving to Africa. Embarking on my journey, I could not have had a better mentor than him. He taught me how to play attacking football, something I’m trying to implement now.
"He is like a father for me, we worked together for nine years, and our relationship goes beyond work. We spent a lot of time in Africa without our families, so I think that over the years we spent more time together than with our families," the 47-year old added.
Parting company with Le Roy was no easy decision. "It was definitely a difficult call. It’s not easy to put nine years behind you, but when an opportunity to work as head coach presented itself, I jumped at it," he explained.
The transition from assistant to head coach was clearly challenging for Migne. Asked about the difference between the two roles, he said: "When you’re head coach, you have a lot of pressure on your shoulders. I used to help Le Roy in training sessions, but now the responsibility for everything from team tactics to substitutions lies solely with me."
Qatar 2022: realism and ambitions
The draw of the second round of African qualifiers for Qatar 2022 saw Equatorial Guinea drawn in Group B along with Tunisia, Zambia and Mauritania. Asked about their opponents, Migne said: "It’s a tough group but we have nothing to lose. We’ll play every game with the same determination, and we’ll seize any opportunity. We have to be patient and humble and we have to learn from all these international games."
"According to the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, we’re the second-tier side in this group and we have to accept that. However, I don’t think other teams will be underestimating us, particularly Tunisia, who know us well after struggling to beat us by one goal in our recent encounter," he added.
As for his objectives with Equatorial Guinea, Migne is both realistic and ambitious. "We have many goals. It’s true that we’ve never made the World Cup and that the task ahead isn’t easy. At a continental level, the country only once participated in the Africa Cup of Nations, and that was as hosts. But we have a promising future ahead of us and there are many beautiful things we can achieve, if we all work together to make progress," he insisted.
The Africa qualifiers will see Migne clash with his compatriot Corentin Martins, Mauritania’s coach. Speaking of that encounter, Migne said: "It’s always nice to play against other French coaches. Our numbers have gone down recently with national teams starting to rely more on local coaches. Once the whistle blows, though, we’ll forget about everything else and just focus on tactics in order to defeat Mauritania."
Speaking on the same topic, Martins told FIFA.com in a recent interview: "It won’t be Martins against Migne, but 11 Mauritanians against 11 Equatoguineans. And while I haven’t watched Migne’s side, I believe they have some good players."