What are the risks of appointing Dessaily Ghana coach?

Marcel Desailly

Joe is a finance guru. Good guy if you ask me. You can always expect something interesting from him. This morning I received a mail from him. He asked me an intriguing question. ‘What is the risk profile of Marcel Desailly?’ I was tempted to dismiss his risk management like question but knowing him, he would hound me for a reply. In simple English, Joe wanted to find out what the risks were in appointing ex France international Marcel Desailly as coach of the Ghana’s senior national football team, the Black Stars. The job became vacant when ex coach Milovan Rajevac traded it for a more lucrative offer with Saudi Arabian club, Al Ahli Jeddah.

Marcel Desailly’s candidature has been discussed passionately in the media and in social circles after he declared his interest on a local T.V station. Ghanaian fans and journalists are however sharply divided on his candidature with most of the arguments fuelled by emotions. The most hilarious of all was this remark from a prominent journalist: I don’t think we can look Desailly in the face and not give him the job! wow! Talk about love and solidarity.

The sentiments aside, I reflected on the practical risks in appointing someone with no coaching experience to man the national team so I could reply my geek friend.

Not just a question of experience

Critics of Desailly have pointed to a number of coaches like Diego Armando Maradonna and Hristo Stoichkov to back their argument that great players don’t necessarily make great coaches. Desailly they reckon would be too much of a risk especially with him having no prior coaching experience or serving any form of apprenticeship. Fair enough, but what these critics fail to realize is that success in coaching has moved beyond the conventional technical expertise and wielding several years of practical experience.

I concede that experience is an essential ingredient to producing results; however it is also true that all coaches started somewhere and then gained practical experience on the job. Indeed there are coaches who have had practical experience for years and yet have nothing to show for it, Sam Allardyce of Blackburn Rovers readily comes to mind. It is also true that there have been coaches who assumed duty with no coaching experience yet made appreciable strides, name them: Frank Rijkaard, Marco Van Basten, Laurent Blanc, Jurgen Klinsmann, Roberto Mancini etc. but the best example however has to be current Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

Beginning his association with the club as a ball boy, Guardiola lived his childhood dream by playing for Barcelona until 2001. In 2008, when the Frank Rijkaard era came to an end, Barcelona decided to take a huge risk. Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola was appointed head coach though he did not have any coaching experience at the top level. It turned out to be an inspired appointment worthy of the risk. In barely twelve months Barcelona won 3 trophies including the UEFA Champions league in the 2008/2009 season. Impressive huh!

Two essential points

Point # 1: A coach’s accomplishments and stature alone do not guarantee success. If it did, Fabio Capello would not have received the flak he did after England’s early exit from the 2010 World Cup. If it did, Marcello Lippi would have drawn on his wealth of experience to prevent Italy’s disgraceful first round exit from the 2010 World Cup. Indeed let me ask, when France disgraced herself in South Africa, did it not have to do with Coach Raymond Domenech’s improper man management skills rather than coaching experience? The point is that there are other contributing factors to a coach becoming successful. You have to marry the elements of team chemistry and discipline, talent, management and of course tactics. None of these elements can exist or prevail separately. When all these elements are properly synergized, the whole would always be greater than the sum of its parts.

That is why Pep Guardiola then lacking in experience was able to succeed on the back of talents like Lionel Messi, Xavi hernandez and Andres Iniesta, support from Joan Laporta’s management as well as his personal ability to inject discipline into a team that was then losing it off the pitch ala Ronaldinho. It was not because Guardiola had any previous technical magic from prior jobs; it was his technical knowledge and man management skills meeting talented players and effective management at the right time.

Point # 2: most coaching appointments are risks anyhow you see them. Some of the appointments exceed expectations, some fail miserably but either way they are risks. When a former shoe salesman Arigo Sacchi stepped into coaching, it was a risk but he went on to become a success with both AC Milan and Italy. Coming closer to Ghana, when Milovan Rajevac was appointed, he had not coached any national team before. Was it not a risk? Indeed it was. So risky he needed an interpreter. However, he took Ghana to a continental final and world cup quarterfinal.

A good risk

Having established that it takes more than coaching experience but a combination of factors to ensure coaching success, my reply to Joe would be that Monsieur Desailly is imbued with the attributes required of the next Black Stars coach and his appointment would be a good risk.

Desailly was born Odenke Abbey to Ghanaian parents but was adopted by a French Diplomat then working in Ghana. The diplomat married his mother and at age 4 accompanied by his other siblings, Desailly migrated to France where he grew up and began his professional football career with Nantes. The defender went on to play for Marseille and AC Milan. It was with these clubs that he won domestic league titles as well as UEFA Champions League trophies with both clubs. He also captained Chelsea and France; it was with the French that he won the 2000 European Championship, 2001 & 2003 FIFA Confederation Cups and the 1998 World Cup.

So, when recruiters set out to look for a coach who can command the respect of the players, manage their egos, instill discipline and motivate them, Desailly perfectly fits the bill. Can you imagine Desailly walking into the Black Stars dressing room? When looking for a coach who is in tune with the modern tactics, Desailly would produce his coaching certificate which he recently acquired.

When looking for a coach who will stay in the country and be fully committed to the job, the recruiters need not look far; Desailly now lives in Accra with his French wife Virginie and the younger two of his four children. He is therefore familiar with the local terrain. Desailly also has the temperament to be his own man and select players based on merit. He clearly showed that he was a man of character and integrity when he turned down the job on two occasions because he believed he was not ready. He would be willing to communicate with the media having worked as a pundit for a number of media houses; he understands that he needs to develop a relationship with the media.

So until the Ghana Football Association appoints the next Black Stars coach, it would be an anxious wait. In between time, Monsieur Desailly can afford to relax, pour himself his favourite Chateau Haut Brion wine and down it over the song “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)”

By Nii Ayitey Tetth
Email: [email protected]

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