In the 1984 European Cup Final (Champions League), 27-year-old Bruce Grobelaar became the First African to win Europe’s biggest club competition. Regarded by many Reds as the greatest goalkeeper in Liverpool history, the Zimbabwean who retired in 1999 couldn’t get a job as a Goalkeeping coach of the English Champions, despite his ‘Cult Hero’ status. His only coaching experience was the forty-one months he spent at Ottawa Fury, a dissolved Canadian club that played in the USL Championship, the second-highest division of the United States Soccer League System behind the MLS (Major League Soccer). Eighteen African players have won the Champions League after Grobelaar — Tonnes of European players with African roots have too — with some moving into Management, yet few have been given the opportunity to coach at the highest level.
Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling, spoke up at the lack of opportunities for Black coaches in Management, and the lack of Representation at the top of the sport. For example, Michael Emenalo & Les Ferdinand who represented their nations — the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Three Lions of England respectively — are the only retired black players to reach the Position of Director of Football in the English Top-flight. Ferdinand’s appointment came in a period when QPR were battling relegation from the Premier League but Emenalo’s case was different. He led a network that discovered the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matić. Sterling, who has been on the receiving end of Racist abuse in the past and is never shy to speak his mind told the BBC News night on June 9, 2020.
There’s something like 500 players in the Premier League, and a third of them are black, and we have no representation of us in the Heirachy or in the coaching staffs. There’s not a lot of faces that we can relate to.Raheem Sterling speaking to the BBC News Night
The lack of representation of BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority ethnic) coaches in Europe is clearly not because they’re Tactically inept or have no intellect but as Emenalo rightly said, “There’s a racial narrative that a white guy can do it better.” Emenalo who spoke to the Guardian used the case of former Birmingham, Norwich & Brighton Manager Chris Hughton, as an example. The Irishman who’s the son of a Ghanaian postman was sacked twice at Norwich & Brighton — after leading the latter to two consecutive Premier League finishes — and becoming the first Black manager to win the Premier League manager of the month award.
Take a trip across Europe’s biggest leagues and you’ll see that very few clubs have had a Black manager in Recent years. Patrick Vieira is the only one in the French Ligue 1, there’s none in the Laliga and Bundesliga. Nuno Espírito Santo is the Premier League’s only representative of the BAME community. There’s the case of Antoine Kombouaré, popularly known in France as the manager who kick-started the rebirth of Paris St Germain a decade ago. He was sacked and replaced with Carlo Ancelotti despite winning the Coupe de France in the 2011-12 season.
Albania is a small Balkan country in South Eastern Europe, known to many as the birth country of Mother Teresa and not for its football teams or players. But on July 19, 2020 — The Nation’s most successful side KF Tirana — became the first club led by a Black Man to Qualify for the Champions League, achieving the feat after winning the Albanian league with two matches to spare.
Nigeria was a Co-host of the first African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in the 21st century. Alongside Ghana, both nations hosted the 22nd AFCON in January 2000. At the time, 26-year-old Ndubuisi Emmanuel Egbo was named in Jo Bonfere’s 22-man squad for the AFCON finals, as a back up to Ike Shorunmu who was plying his trade at Turkish side, Beşiktaş. He would end the tournament with a Silver Medal, but couldn’t feature as Shorunmu was arguably Africa’s best goalkeeper. Then came the 2002 AFCON in Mali, at this time he had left the shores of Africa to join FK Tirana. Little did he know that Nineteen years later he would lead the capital club to the Title in their centenary year. Between 1999 and 2002, he got a total of 12 caps for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, missing the FIFA World Cup finals in Korea/Japan after the emergence of a certain Vincent Enyeama.
He joined Egyptian side El Masry in the 2008-09 season after three trophy-laden years in the Albanian capital. Playing 157 matches which brought Two consecutive league titles, the Albanian Cup and Super Cup. After four seasons in the Pyramid nation, he spent the remainder of his career at another Albanian side, FK Bylis. Retiring at the end of the 2011-12 season as a player/coach aged thirty-eight. It was at Bylis that Egbo would begin the journey to a UEFA A Coaching License, starting out as Assistant manager of Naci Şensoy while playing the role of goalkeeping coach at the Albanian club. After the departure of Şensoy, Egbo was appointed Manager on August 1, 2013. This would be his first Managerial appointment. Unfortunately, his Bylis stint didn’t work out as the Agush Maça based side ended the 2013-14 Kategoria Superiore season bottom of the table and were automatically relegated.
After his contract was terminated, he joined Tirana a year later. The club he represented four times in the 2003-04 Champions League. Since 2014, Egbo has served in so many roles at the club. Goalkeeping coach under six managers, Assistant manager twice and as Caretaker in three different stints from 2015 to 2019. It’s not far-fetched to say the AFCON silver & bronze medalist is a loyal servant and Legend of the 25 time Albanian Champions. A poor run in the first half of the 2019-20 season led to Resignation of former Tirana manager, Julian Ahmataj. With the club’s form in tatters, Egbo was appointed as Ahmataj’s replacement on a full-time capacity with the club in the Relegation zone. A run of Fifteen wins and a draw in sixteen matches moved the club from Eight to First, sealing the title in their centenary year after fellow title challengers FK Kükesi lost 1-0 to Vilanzia Shkoder on Matchday thirty-four. The Kategoria Superiore is ranked 38th on the UEFA League Coefficient table. This means that Tirana have qualified for the First Qualifying Round of the 2020-21 Champions League. They would face the Champions of one of the Leagues ranked 15th — 17th, i.e. Young Boys/St. Gallen/Basel (Switzerland), Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) or Midtjylland (Denmark) — when the draws are made in August.
UEFA announced on their website that all qualifying matches will be single-leg matches before reverting to Home and Away fixtures for the play-off round. The likes of Emenalo, Vieira and Hughton are the few Blacks who’ve broken into the Top echelon of Football management, but more are needed. Hopefully with the emergence of managers like Egbo, it further reiterates the need for a level playing field and promote equal representation across the sport we all call the beautiful game.