Saadane: I have nothing to prove

2010-01-22 12:14

ALGERIA are into their first World Cup finals in 24 years and have

qualified for the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, yet the

architect behind these twin achievements feels undervalued, unappreciated and

underfire.

Coach Rabah Saadane has nothing to prove, yet his critics, sections

of the Algerian media, have rounded on him here in Angola leaving him embattled

and bitter.

Born months after the end of World War II, the father of four who

graduated from university with a degree in science is on his fifth stint with

the national team.

He was assistant coach at the 1982 World Cup and was head coach at

the 1986 World Cup when his Algeria failed to make it out of the first round

after a draw with Northern Ireland and losses to Brazil and Spain.

Saadane, who cuts a doleful figure with his droopy eyes and walrus

moustache, served his country again for an unhappy four month spell in 1999 and

returned for a fourth time in 2003, leading the Desert Foxes to a quarterfinal

at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

Hired again in 2007, this latest tenure has proved his most

successful, with qualification to South Africa this coming winter season and now

a last eight date with Ivory Coast on Sunday.

He has achieved mission impossible as none of his critics believed

either of the two feats were possible, especially Algeria’s progress through the

Nations Cup first round after their opening 3-0 loss to Malawi.

That led to calls for his sacking.

“After that defeat I discovered who were my friends and who were my

enemies,” Saadane, who has clearly been hurt by the press onslaught, told AFP.

“I was attacked before we came to Angola for choosing Toulon (city in southern

France) as our training base, and attacked again when we lost to Malawi.

“The criticism became personal, this was disrespectful after the

sacrifice I made to help put Algeria back on the continental and international

stage. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. My record speaks for

itself.

“I feel unappreciated,” added the man who is called “Cheikh” by his

players. “No one dreamed we could qualify for the World Cup. All those who

criticise me know nothing – we lost one game and nobody will forgive us.

“My critics forget who is Rabah Saadane – if they want to know who

he is they must look back to the past, or to just a few months. I have nothing

to prove.

“Training the national team is an honour for me, but it is also a

huge responsibility. Every time I am asked to become coach I answer the

challenge and I make a successful job of it.”

When he was summoned to become coach for the fifth time in 2007 his

wife begged him not to accept, because when times get rough fans can get rough

too.

“I took on the job again even though I know the risk it presents on

my family, on my life – I do not give up easily.”

After their rocky start Algeria went on to beat Mali 1-0 and drew

0-0 with Angola to reach the quarterfinals as Group A runners-up, leaving

Saadane satisfied that his team is on the right path.

“We have reached our objective of making the quarterfinals. We have

a good team that is making progress with each match. We will continue to work

hard, to concentrate, to try to go far in this tournament.”

The north Africans are drawn in the same World Cup first round

group as England, the US and Slovenia, and Saadane, a former defender with

French side Rennes, believes this Angola dress rehearsal will prove an

invaluable experience for South Africa.

“We have shown here in Angola that we are on the right path for the

World Cup. But what we have done here shouldn’t be regarded as a message to

England, USA and Slovenia. The conditions at the World Cup will be very

different to here in terms of weather, tactics and our preparation.”


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