Saadane stands alone for Africa

By Brian Homewood

CRANS MONTANA, Switzerland, May 21 (Reuters) - Though the 2010 World Cup is the first to be staged on African soil, only one of the 32 teams will be led by a coach from the continent.

Of the six African teams taking part, hosts South Africa will be coached by a Brazilian while Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana will be under European leadership.

The exception are Algeria, taking part in their first World Cup since 1986 and led by local coach Rabah Saadane.

"It's a great satisfaction, though it's not something I had really counted on," Saadane told Reuters before a training session in this Swiss village, where his team are holding a two-week camp.

"I think I'm representing all the African coaches, and the Arab world as well, so it's a big responsibility."

African teams often employ local coaches to take them through the World Cup qualifiers, then switch to a big-name European coach for the tournament itself.

"This is a matter for the directors and I don't want to give any advice to the directors," said Saadane, whose team face England, United States and Slovenia in Group C at the finals starting on June 11.

"But I can tell you that in Africa there are plenty of coaches and trainers of great quality."

African coaches had not taken part in the World Cup at all until Abdelmajid Chetali led his native Tunisia to Argentina in 1978.

Before that, Yugoslavia's Blagoje Vidinic coached Morocco at the 1970 finals and Zaire four years later, while Egypt were coached by a Scotsman in 1934, the only previous occasion an African team had qualified.

FIFTH STINT

There was a bumper year in 2002 when Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia were all led by local coaches but it was back to the usual routine four years ago in Germany when Angola's Luis Oliveria Goncalves was the only African to occupy the hot seat.

The 64-year-old Saadane was also in charge of Algeria on their last World Cup appearance in 1986 and was brought back two-and-a-half years ago after the Algerians themselves had several disappointing tenures with foreign coaches.

Overall, it is his fifth stint with the team, including two on a caretaker basis, as the Algerian federation tend to turn to him whenever things go wrong.

"It's just a circumstantial thing that I've done it so many times, although it is extraordinary," he said.

"It's the life of a coach in Africa, really. I don't know if its luck or bad luck."

Algeria's only other World Cup appearance was in 1982 when they stunned West Germany 2-1 in their opening match but were then victims of one of the biggest controversies the tournament has seen.

With Algeria having completed their group games, West Germany met Austria knowing that a low-scoring win for the Germans would send them both through at Algeria's expense.

West Germany won 1-0 in one of the tamest matches imaginable. After that, FIFA changed the rules so that the two closing matches in every group were played simultaneously.

"I think the important thing is that FIFA changed the rules about decisive matches after what happened between West Germany and Austria," said Saadane, who did not want to be drawn further on the matter.

"If Algeria had gone to the second round, people would have got to know us in the international context and who knows how far we could have gone."

(Additional reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Clare Fallon)