Godfather LeRoy’s absence felt at Afcon

Claude le Roy during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. Picture: Gallo Images
Claude le Roy during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. Picture: Gallo Images

Coach LeRoy knows African football well, but the colourful mentor has a different role in Egypt.

What is the Afcon without Claude Le Roy? This is the question being asked in Egypt as the Harry Potter lookalike is conspicuous by his absence on the touchline at the ongoing continental championship.

The well-travelled Frenchman has coached an unprecedented nine Afcon editions while in charge of six different national teams, which is also a record.

What is also remarkable is that his teams always went past the first round, but he missed the ticket to Egypt after his side Togo finished bottom of their group during the qualifying campaign.

Known for his all-black attire on match days, competition in Egypt is missing arguably Africa’s most colourful and controversial character in the 71-year-old tactician.

Not afraid to speak his mind, the Frenchman is a known critic of CAF and often fought his football federation bosses over the rights of national team players wherever he was in charge.

LeRoy was a keen spectator from the VIP box at the Ivory Coast versus Morocco Group D fixture last Friday, just before Bafana Bafana played Namibia.

He is in Egypt as a consultant for French TV channel Canal+, but his presence at Al Salam Stadium had more to do with his protégé, Moroccan head coach Hervé Renard, who was his assistant during LeRoy’s short spell at Cambridge in 2004, a fourth-tier side in England.

LeRoy came to prominence on the continental stage with Cameroon in the 1980s and later enjoyed spells with Senegal, Ghana, Congo-Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He guided Cameroon to a runners-up spot at the 1986 Afcon and later steered the Indomitable Lions to victory at the 1998 continental showpiece during his second spell in charge.

His trademark round spectacles reappeared at the 2013 Afcon hosted by South Africa, where he was at the helm of the DRC, the side he also oversaw over two stints.

LeRoy’s achievements in Africa have clearly influenced French coaches to take charge of some of the continent’s top national teams – seven Frenchmen accounted for the 13 European tacticians barking instructions from the sidelines this tournament.

Also missing in action in the latest Afcon edition is Patrice Carteron, the 48-year-old Frenchman who steered Mali to third place in South Africa six years ago.

Carteron now coaches Raja Casablanca in Morocco after a brief spell in Egypt with Al Ahly last season. German Winfried Schäfer is another notable absentee in Egypt.

The white-haired veteran – known for squatting in front of the bench during matches – guided Cameroon to the 2002 Afcon.

Schäfer (69) last held a coaching job at Esteghlal FC, the Iranian club that had Cape Town City winger Ayanda Patosi on loan last season.

A familiar face in Egypt is that of Alain Giresse, the 66-year-old Frenchman in charge of Tunisia.

The Carthage Eagles became Giresse’s latest team following his appointment in December.

He previously spent four years with Gabon from 2006 to 2010, guided Senegal (2013 to 2015) and Mali over two spells between 2010 and 2012, as well as from 2015 to 2017.

His best Afcon result was a third-place finish with Mali in 2012.

Also making an appearance at yet another Afcon is Benin head tactician Michel Dussuyer.

The 60-year-old has endured an on-and-off relationship with Guinea, where he had three stints between 2002 and 2015.

He guided them to the quarterfinals of the 2004 and 2015 editions.

Dussuyer also had a spell with Ivory Coast as assistant to the late Henri Michel at the 2006 continental championships.

The well-travelled Dussuyer returned to The Elephants as head coach in 2015, but soon resigned after the Ivorians failed to reach the quarterfinals.

Renard is the most accomplished of the lot in Egypt, having guided Zambia to the 2012 triumph, and replicated the feat with Ivory Coast in 2015. He is hoping for the same luck with Morocco this year.

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