African business, politics and lifestyle
Togo need a miracle
It is hard to fathom what the motivation for Jean Thissen’s decision would be. He takes on the job as national team coach of Togo just over two weeks before the resumption of Africa’s World Cup qualifiers and with the very real prospect of having to do without his best player.
Thissen is the third new coach to take over at the helm of a side who are still in the World Cup race and set out at the end of this month on the final leg of the fight for one of the five berths for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
The 63-year-old, who is a former Belgian international and has coached in Gabon, Morocco and Tunisia, parachutes in to take charge of Togo’s team after Frenchman Henri Stambouli walked out last year.
But talk of taking on the virtually impossible. ‘Les Eperviers’ (the sparrowhawks) have the most daunting start to their Group A campaign, starting on March 28 against Cameroon on neutral territory in Accra where Togo are forced to play their home matches because of a ban on their own stadium in Lome.
Cameroon are hot favourites as an exciting new generation of talent bursts through their ranks.
To make matters worse, there is the strong possibility that Togo will go into the game without talismanic captain Emmanuel Adebayor.
The newly crowned African Footballer of the Year pulled a hamstring playing for Arsenal in the English premier league just weeks ago and is supposedly sidelined for some time to come. Arsenal with its galaxy of stars is noticeably poorer for his absence, so imagine what a blow the injury is to Togo’s hopes.
Thissen also takes on a job where his employers have unrealistic expectations, believing Togo can qualify for the 2010 finals.
It was nothing short of a minor miracle that Togo qualified for the last World Cup in Germany but their limited player pool and poorly run administration mitigates against it ever happening again.
That they have got this far in the 2010 qualifiers is solely because of the impetus of Adebayor’s return to the team after yet another of his tiffs with authorities.
So why then take on the job? Thissen could see himself as pioneer, keen to work in difficult climes; he could be an eternal optimist or he may just need a job. One thing is sure: He is going to need to be a miracle worker.
Picture: Arsenal’s Emmanuel Adebayor reacts after missing a shot on goal against Liverpool in London December 21, 2008. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh