Guinea must select next coach wisely or miss chance at World Cup berth
This week, Guinea's football federation published a list of 15 prospective candidates for their vacant national team job in what is becoming more of a frequent, yet still somewhat bizarre ritual, in African football.
This shortlist of 15 had apparently been selected from an even longer list of applicants, claimed to be 43, and on Friday it was reduced even further to five finalists.
For some it would have come as encouragement of the prospect of an intriguing job. Guinea might be among the world's poorest nations and the country is only slowly emerging from the shock and potential ravages of the recent Ebola epidemic, but football-wise they have always held out much potential. Despite their lack of monetary resources, they regularly qualify for the African Nations Cup final and have come close to World Cup qualification, too.
Others on the list, however, were likely embarrassed. Denis Lavagne, the former Cameroon coach, for example, has just signed up as the new coach of Free State Stars in South Africa's Premier Soccer League and Hubert Velud is in his first season in charge of the former African champions TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There have previously been other such uncomfortable revelations for coaches employed elsewhere and hasty denials issued. Often supposed candidates did not put themselves in contention; rather it is agents who are touting a client or even someone who they have never previously represented but hope that they might make some money by putting together a deal.
Playing out the entire process of putting in place a new coach in such a public way has happened in Africa before. The Ivory Coast, one of the most sought after jobs on the continent, made public the applicants for their coaching job when they were looking to replace Herve Renard after last year's Nations Cup success.
But just why federations feel it necessary to divulge such details is unclear. They certainly do not do the same for other processes, like team selection or when officials are selected for powerful positions within the organisation. It seems like an act of braggadocio, designed to try to prove the importance of the team by pointing out that a phalanx of foreigners are beating down the door to take over the post.
Certainly similar appointments at football associations around the world go through as thorough a vetting process, but rarely do we know much more about the prospective candidates than the identity of the one ultimately chosen.
Guinea are now going to choose from Frenchmen Jean-Marc Nobilo and Bernard Simondi, the German Gernot Rohr (who is also a French citizen), Paul Put from Belgium and Mohammed Kanfory Bangoura, who was the assistant to previous incumbent Luis Fernandez. Similar positions in Africa have been the launching pad for the likes of Renard, Claude Le Roy and Philippe Troussier, but the candidates for the Guinea job -- who will now be interviewed in the next week -- are more in the category of needing a career revival rather than a jumpstart.
Nobilo was briefly coach of Benin and ran the Algerian junior national teams but has been an academy coach at Auxerre for the past two years. Simondi was previously Guinea's coach as he was that of Burkina Faso, the country that Put took the Nations Cup final in 2013. Rohr left the job in Burkina Faso near the end of last year to go and work for the German Football Federation. His other jobs on the continent include heading the national teams of Gabon and Niger.
Guinea are out of contention for the next Nations Cup in Gabon after Fernandez presided over a horrific qualifying campaign before abruptly resigning and returning to his pundit's job in France. But they will compete in the final stage of Africa's qualifiers for the World Cup where a group with Tunisia, DR Congo and Libya is certainly not too daunting and might indeed provide the country with a first-ever World Cup ticket -- should they pick the right man.
Mark Gleeson covers African football for ESPN FC.