They don’t come any bigger than Herve Renard on the African coaching scene and the past weekend, the Frenchman opened up to Juliet Bawuah of Media General about his time on the continent which begun with the Black Stars of Ghana and how his return could be with Ghana too.
He also spoke about managing Zambia to an unlikely Africa Cup of Nations triumph, beating Ghana to another Afcon title in 2015 and his unending admiration for Ghana striker Jordan Ayew.
The beginning of an African adventure
Renard: Claude Le Roy was the key of my career because without him, I never would have made a step in Africa, and to talk of working with one of the best teams in Africa. He knew African football perfectly. It was an honour to be named assistant of the Black Stars because after the World Cup in 2006, the performance of the team was very high. This was the best period of the Black Stars. You look at my career path, and you can say I am very lucky. I improved a lot because of him.
Renard has sometimes been mocked with his physical trainer tag in Ghana but not a problem got him
Renard: I was obliged to accept the physical trainer tag when I arrived in Ghana because I met Sellas Tetteh, so, it was normal although I was also an assistant. But when I started the Zambia job, my title in Ghana as a Physical Trainer popped up again and in my first interview in Zambia, I was asked how as a Physical Tariner i was going to manage a national team.
I was a bit upset and wasn’t happy with that but the provocation was good for me because I said to myself ‘I will show you what I can do’. I started my coaching career in 2000, and I became coach of Zambia in 2008, and after eight years, you are telling me I am not a coach? I was a bit upset.
The bad start in Zambia didn’t stop him though. The rest as they say is history after their amazing 2012 triumph
Renard: The experience with Zambia was amazing. We worked a lot: it was not by chance. I heard so many comments when we won the AFCON in 2012 that we were lucky. Of course you always need luck to win one Africa Cup Of Nations but I worked with a fantastic squad. The players were dedicated. The key of that success was the fact that we believed in ourselves.
In 2015, Renard won his second Afcon title at the expense of Ghana with Ivory Coast after recovering from 0-2 down in the penalty shootout.
Renard: I recently watched the final of the 2015 Afcon, which I haven’t done before. To be honest, Ghana was better than us. I didn’t know at the time of the final but now I think we were a bit lucky to win the Afcon. It may be strictly football; it may also be destiny.
So how much has luck factored in his two Afcon title wins?
I was a bit lucky but i also worked hard. It’s strange to have won the AFCON in 2012 and 2015, with two completely different teams.
Luck plays a part in football but you have to provoke the luck. You build the luck. You have to build everything in football. If you don’t have good discipline, a good squad, a good bench, you can’t achieve that. For a tournament like the AFCON, it can be won from the bench because you as a coach sometimes understand things that the players don’t. So with the luck, you build it together, same as team spirit.
So having worked on the continent for so long, what are the areas Africa football needs to get better in?
Renard: We have to improve it. Not the football, and also not just about the players but the things around the game as well. The facilities, infrastructure, and organization; this is what African football needs. The top players of the continent are helping their clubs win big in Europe. We need to ensure those on the continent achieve same professionalism. When infrastructure and organization meets football, the sport becomes amazing. This, is what is missing a bit in Africa
Jordan Ayew is the future
Renard: He is improving because it’s not easy to play in the premier league. He is working very hard. He is clever; desn’t talk too much. Jordan is in my heart and I like his spirit. I am very sure from now till the end of his career, he will do a lot of great things, and I my wish for him and his brother is that they will be able to win the AFCON before ending the career because I think they deserve it. It is time for them.
Could he choose between Essien and Yaya Toure?
I can’t choose between Micheal Essien and Yaya Toure. Essien was an amazing player and a good guy. I was assistant only in Ghana but he was respecting me like head coach, and for a star to do that, was great. On the field, he was fantastic. For Yaya Toure, I had the chance to win an AFCON with him. He is the kind of player that makes the difference. These two players are on the same line.
Inevitably a Ghana return?
I have a new challenge with Saudi Arabia now and that’s my focus but of course I will come back to Africa one day to win something with a country, one that hasn’t won the AFCON for a very long time. Of course, coming back to coach Ghana will be a fantastic challenge but no one knows tomorrow. Ghana was on top but now a little bit down. The potential is still the same. One day, it will be your management and your government that decides that we want to bring this man or maybe we don’t want him because we don’t like him.
How can you refuse to be interested in a team that always gets close and not win? So, this will be a fantastic challenge.
And that white shirt.
I won two Africa Cup of Nations in a white shirt, you want me to change for what?
During the penalty shoot-out in the 2015 AFCON final between Ivory Coast and Ghana, we missed the first two but went ahead to win. So, do you want me to put on a red shirt for the next AFCON if i am in charge of a team?
No. Not possible.
Sometimes, I am superstitious. That will never change