Colourful Courbis exits with hugs and kisses

Rolland Courbis strode off the Africa Cup of Nations stage after Niger's exit on Tuesday, blowing kisses and dispensing hugs in keeping with his role as one of French football's most colourful personalities.

The former Girondins Bordeaux and Olympique Marseille coach, once jailed in France for transfer irregularities, injected some colour and humour into the often dull discourse of coaches at the tournament but his mission at the finals remained as controversial as his reputation.

Courbis was asked by Niger to join the team as an advisor to their inexperienced coach Harouna Doula after they had won a surprise place in the 16-team event in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

But by the time Niger had lost their first match at the tournament, Courbis had taken over and left Doula looking glum on the bench, the body language between the two betraying little affection.

After two matches in charge, in which he engineered a better performance by the rookies, Courbis will not be staying on with Niger.

"I'm going back to France within 24 hours to take up my other professional activities," he said.

For Courbis, who has survived an assassination attempt and been banned from every casino in France, it has been an adventure away from his regular job as a radio and television analyst for Ligue 1 matches.

"It's the same business of course but there is something special about being on the bench."


With his tanned, barrel chest and gold chain, and a voice hoarse from shouting at players during Tuesday's 1-0 defeat to Morocco, Courbis told: "I was proud to be able to accompany this team and I tried to give them advice that I believed was indispensable."

The point of importing a European coach to replace an indigenous trainer, who had done all the hard work in qualifying Niger, was a question one local reporter sought to have answered.

Courbis interrupted: "Remember I was invited by Niger, I just didn't wander through the desert and suddenly land there," he said before a lengthy explanation of how he felt he had given the best counselling possible.

On whether he might return and take up a more permanent post at the head of the Niger side, Courbis said: "I don't have that answer today but I will keep my eye on their results."

He added Niger had potential and were capable of causing problems for other nations.

Courbis seemed almost reluctant to leave when his part of the news conference closed. He watched as a man-of-the-match award was handed over to Niger goalkeeper Daouda Kassaly and interjected: "I thought they would have given me an award as the most talkative coach here."

Then with a wave for the reporters and a kiss, hug and a tap on the cheek of those in his path, he exited.