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Wanted! Coaches for top African nations, preferably French
Four of the leading contenders in Africa’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers remain rudderless less than a month away from the start of the road to 2010.
The Ivory Coast, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia are all among the favourites for a place in the finals in South Africa in two years’ time but find themselves scampering for a coach with their opening group qualifiers four weekends away.
Media reports say the Ivorians are talking to Jean Tigana, the former France international whose origins are African but has never worked on the continent before.
Last month the Ivorian Football Federation decided they would no longer need the services of the German Uli Stielike, even though he had helped them through an unbeaten, and frankly impressive, run in the qualifiers for the 2008 African Nations Cup finals in Ghana.
Tigana, 52, last worked at Besiktas more than a year ago but has been linked with a number of jobs since. Born in Mali, Tigana’s managerial career has also taken him to Fulham in England and to a championship winning spell with Monaco in Ligue 1.
Once appointed he would have just a few weeks to prepare for the opening qualifier against Mozambique in Abidjan on June 1, on paper an easy-looking tie but in reality a potential banana skin for the highly-fancied Elephants.
Tunisia were due to name Jacques Santini as their new coach earlier this week but that has been put on hold because of a sticking point over who is going to pay his tax bill once ensconced in the job.
Newspaper reports on Monday said the Tunisian Football Federation has twice met Santini in Paris but the proposed contract had still to be signed.
As time runs out before Tunisia open their qualifying campaign at home to Burkina Faso on June 1, Santini’s appointment could be delayed as his agents and Tunisian officials quibble over 5,000 euros a month the coach wants to help pay his tax bill.
Santini is to receive a basic salary of 33, 000 euros a month, as well as housing and transport allowances and frequent free flights back to France, according to the state-run La Presse newspaper.
He is set to replace another Frenchman Roger Lemerre. The Tunisian Football Federation had first sought to replace him with the Etoile Sahel coach Bertrand Marchand but their negotiations broke down over his contract.
Morocco have twice postponed a planned announcement of the successor to Frenchman Henri Michel, who was fired after their first round exit at the Nations Cup finals in Ghana in January.
In March they were due to choose between six local coaches but cancelled a planned news conference. Last Thursday they again called off the previously-scheduled unveiling of the coach and have still to shed any light on who will take charge of their first World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia in Casablanca on May 31.
Lemerre, who has just ended a six-year spell in Tunisia, is the hot favourite with Morocco’s press reporting numerous flights in and out of Casablanca’s Mohamed V airport in recent weeks.
Senegal, who have a tough opener against Algeria in Dakar on May 31, have just received FIFA’s permission to overhaul the leadership of their football federation and would presumably seek to get those structures sorted out first before looking to employ a new high profile coach.
Henryk Kasperczak, the former Polish World Cup campaigner, quit during the Nations Cup finals in Ghana and his assistant Lamine Ndiaye took charge of the last match in the tournament against South Africa. But there is no word on who leads the Lions of Teranga later this month.
Mark Gleeson covers African football for Reuters
PHOTO: Former Besiktas coach Jean Tigana wearing a T-shirt with the words: “Kids, We believed. We won the Cup for You” after his team won the Turkish Cup in Izmir May 3, 2006. REUTERS/Fatih Saribas