News of Cameroon’s preparations for the African Nations Cup is emanating from unexpected quarters – the coach of the Panthers of Gabon.

“Immediately after the draws were made in Luanda, the Cameroon, Tunisian and Gabonese delegations travelled to Lubango to visit the infrastructure and choose the base for our various camps,”Alain Giresse told Gabonese television (RTG1) on Thursday.

Alain GiresseThe two-time World Cup semi-finalist with France (1982 and 1986) who has been training Gabon for about three years said that the Cameroonian and Gabonese officials had both fallen for  the calm and luxurious Lubango Palancras Negras hotel, as their base.

“The Tunisians didn’t want to stay that far and the Cameroonians finally turned down the offer but I am happy that we took it,” Giresse said.

Since the draws were made in Luanda, Cameroonian fans and media have been urging authorities to announce the preparation schedule of the team, to no avail.

Giresse, like his Cameroonian counterpart and fellow Frenchman  Paul Le Guen, is under pressure from some sports journalists and fans to bring in “fresh blood” to the national team before the African Cup of Nations in a month’s time.

“Do you think it is possible to come up with new players who would adapt to the team’s play style and be performant at a huge competition like the African Nations Cup within 2 weeks of camping?”Giresse asked.

It would be a huge risk and jeopardy to include in his current squad any player from the all home-based Gabonese national side that knocked Cameroon out of the ongoing CEMAC Cup in Bagui (1-0) on Sunday, the former captain of the French national team said.

“Do you think I don’t know the players who are playing in that competition? I know all of them. Do you think – by the whiff of a magic wand a player would just burst on to the scene like that? And by this whiff of a magic wand he would be ready to play at the level of a Nations Cup? I don’t believe in that,” Giresse said.

Here are more excerpts on the site visit, the importance of professional preparation of tournaments, why people should not expect coaches to add too many new faces in their squads before the African Cup of Nations and Cameroon’s potential ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. These excerpts were  selected and  translated into English  by George Esunge Fominyen for Gef’s Football Club.

Who is camping where and how was that arranged in Lubango?

Alain Giresse:

“After the draws were made in Luanda, the Cameroon, Tunisian and Gabonese delegations travelled to Lubango to visit the infrastructure and choose the base for our various camps. The Zambians did not come – I don’t know why. We visited the training grounds with the Cameroonians and Tunisians and decided among us the time-table on how we will pratice.  The Cameroonians were also interested in the hotel that we finally chose. But the Tunisians did not want to go that far and the Cameroonians turned it down at the last minute.

I immediately fell in love with this hotel because it is in altitude – at 2000 metres above sea level. Lubango itself is 1700 metres above sea level and so it would be good to stay that high. It will help us recuperate.

Moreover, a huge competition like this is prepared in calm, serenity and comfort. As you saw, it is a comfortable, peaceful environment. It takes us away from the tension of the town, the tension of the matches and all that noise of a big competition. My experience of big competitions (tournaments) is that we were always out of the city centre – in calm retreats. It is very useful because we’ll be together as a team for long, therefore the players need breathing space.

The organization put in place by the Gabonese authorities to go to the draw was exemplary. We went in a private jet. Some of my colleagues were envious of my good fortune, especially Vahid Halilodzic, the Ivorian coach who crossed the length and breadth of Africa via connecting flights to get to Luanda. It shows that the ministry has put all in place and displays the seriousness of the preparation for the competition.

Football has taken such a dimension that no detail has to be left to chance… Our pre-tournament camp is going to be in Bloemfontein (South Africa) which is at 1500m above sea level and we’ll be playing in Lubango which stands at 1700 m above sea-level. Everything is linked up.”

Coach would you open up the group to bring in new players?

Alain Giresse:

“We can only take 23 players. How do you expect today that we find new players susceptible to be present without experience of  top level football?

What about young Gabonese who were born in France but who can still play for Gabon?

Alain Giresse:

“Federic Mullot of Monaco has decided to give priority to playing for France. He told me that if I called him up to play for Gabon  he would not come because he is more  inclined to play for France. It is clear. It is also the case with Ndumbo . He is also hoping to play for France. I retained Ndumbo  for the game against Togo (final World Cup qualifier) and he declined the invitation”

What if there was a player who burst out of the ranks in  the on going CEMAC Cup  Bangui – would you not call him up?

Alain Giresse:

“What do you mean by bursting out (explosion)? Do you think I don’t know the players who are playing in that competition? I know all of them. Do you think – by the whiff of a magic wand a player would just burst on to the scene like that? And by this whiff of a magic wand he would be ready to play at the level of a Nations Cup? I don’t believe in that. It isn’t that I don’t want to have  new players, but I don’t believe that it is possible. And allow me use myexperience in football  and my knowledge of those players who are playing in the Cemac Cup –  to attain the level of the CAN especially for one who has never played at such top level – it would be a matter of discovery. And you would want me to take the risk of picking a player to face big games like those at the CAN without knowing if he can withstand the pressure.  I say that is very daring.”

What would be the best result for Gabon?

Alain Giresse:

“If we can get out of the group phase that would be already good….We are not as strong as the others – in terms of individual potential and the depth in the squad. So we have to be physically and mentally strong from the first game, especially as it is against Cameroon. That is our target. All our preparation must ensure that we reach our best level on 13 January.”

What are Cameroon’s chances in the World Cup group with Holland, Japan and Danemark?

Alain Giresse:

“I think the Dutch are the outright favourites; but Cameroon can withstand any of the other members of the group. I watched Cameroon walk over Austria that defeated France at the qualifiers, I think they can match Danemark….”

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