Tag Archive: france


Pierre Lechantre who led Cameroon to victory at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2000 has been named as Senegal’s new head coach. Good for Senegal. But it’s curious that Senegalese football authorities and the media have been presenting the Frenchman as the coach who won the men’s soccer Olympic Gold Medal with Cameroon in Sydney, Australia.

“The 62-year-old has previously coached Cameroon, leading them to the 2000 Nations Cup and Olympic titles,” a story published on the BBC website said.

That’s not correct and it is unfair to former Cameroon international, Jean Paul Akono, who was the head coach of Cameroon’s Olympic squad at the Sydney games in 2000. (Read reference to Akono in this CNNSI article from September 2000).

Maybe the confusion arises from the fact that the squad in Sydney included several players (Samuel Eto’o, Pierre Wome, Geremi Njitap, Lauren Etame, Patrick Mboma, Daniel Bekono) who were part of the squad that won Nations Cup in February of that same year under Lechantre.

It is, however, surprising that Lechantre himself has not clarified the situation. He was the head coach (manager) of Cameroon Senior national team while Akono was head coach of the country’s U-23 (Olympic) national team. At the Olympics, teams are authorised to select 3 players above the age of 23, which explains Patrick Mboma’s presence in Sydney.

As the head of the senior team, Lechantre could have been part of the official delegation with (possibly) an advisory role but he was clearly not the manager.

Tactically, Akono played a much higher defensive line than the Frenchman did with the senior Indomitable Lions. Akono’s style depended a lot on catching opponents offside and launching quick counter-attacks (but also meant they conceded many goals or committed dangerous fouls when the line wasn’t firmly held).

Yet some pundits claimed that Akono was lucky to have had a set of young players who, for the most part, were already full internationals who had even won a Nations Cup.

Akono may not be the fan’s favourite (more on that below) but as the saying goes – give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. It was Akono, his assistants: Martin Ndtoungou Mpile (currently deputy head coach of the Indomitable Lions), Engelbert Mbarga and the goalkeeping trainer Thomas Nkono who were taking decisions on the touchline; not Lechantre.

Moreover, Lechantre’s troubles in Cameroon were closely linked to Akono’s “success” at the Olympics as  the then Minister of Sport, Bidoun Mpkatt (currently Minister of Youth Affairs), made Akono head coach of the senior national team and controversially “promoted” Lechantre to the position of National Technical Director in November 2000.

Lechantre’s popularity among many senior internationals, fans and the media led to a vast campaign against the Cameroonian Akono, who was forced to resign following a defeat to Angola in a 2002 World Cup qualifier. Lechantre was re-appointed head coach but he was sacked for good after Cameroon under-performed at the Japan-Korea Confederations Cup in 2001.

Hopefully his time in Senegal will be less turbulent.

Why is it that footballers  born in France , with French nationality and in some cases have even represented France at junior level choose to play for the countries of their fathers and /or mothers?

Whereas the commonly held response to this question is that these players don’t have the quality to be picked for France, Cameroon’s Sebastien Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto have given an interview to the U.K. Guardian newspaper that could be a pointer to a more disturbing reason (for the French): bad integration of African and Arab communities in the French society.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong in their Cameroon colours

They explain that people from Arab or African communities face serious integration problems in France to the point that they develop strong attachment to their original and/or ancestral roots which may suggest why more and more of these young people switch football nationalities without difficulty.

“…coming from where I did in France, even if you had only one little drop of Moroccan blood, for example, you would represent it to the death. You would be fiercely proud of being African, says Assou-Ekotto who was born in France to a French mother and a Cameroonian father and proudly represents the latter nation.

Assou-Ekotto who grew up in Arras , France and now plays professional football at Tottenham Hotspur in London, says people in England are fiercely proud of being English even when their parents come from elsewhere and the society accepts that, which is a big difference to France.

His Spurs colleague Bassong concurs.

“Most of the players on the French national team come from rough areas and when you live there, your friends all have dual nationalities,” said Bassong , who played for the French U-21s before switching to play for the land of his father and mother.

When he was in the France Under-21 team, he gave an interview in which he admitted “my heart beats for Cameroon.” He did not play for France again, according to the Guardian.

“When you ask them (French players) where they are from, they will say Senegal, Morocco, Algeria…,” he added.

It is to be expected that the French would want to understand why players switch from France to other countries at senior level. At the World Cup,  there were nine players on other sides who had previously played for France, according to the BBC.

Cameroon’s squad at the 2010 World Cup included three players  who at one stage of their careers had represented France: Sebastien Bassong (French U-21), Gaetan Bong (French U-21 until 2010) and Alexandre Song (French U-16 in 2002).

However, the attempt to limit this trend was  poorly tackled by French Football Federation officials (including the France head coach Laurent Blanc) who digressed into near racial undertones during a meeting that was recorded by a member of the Federation, and  was leaked to the press igniting a massive scandal.

The French Federation and Sports ministry officials launched separate  investigations  while  the French National Technical Director, Francois Blanquart, was suspended.

It should be noted here that Blanquart was the coach of the France under 16 team in 2002 that included Alexandre Song and Frank Songo’o who today play for Cameroon as well as Samir Nasri of Arsenal who represents France.

Assou-Ekotto who, [unlike Alex Song (born in Douala) and Frank Songo'o (born in Yaounde)], never adorned a French national team shirt before choosing to play for his African nation, believes the French society has a bigger issue to address.

“France has, at its heart, a problem where it has been unable or unwilling to accommodate the sons and daughters of its former colonies, even though France benefited and enriched itself greatly from the relationship. That’s hard to accept and it’s what sits at the base of what is dysfunctional in France,” the left full-back told the Guardian.

You can read the original story published by the Guardian online here

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