The 2022 World Cup Was a Success for African Coaches. Otto Addo Says It’s Just the Beginning

Morocco was one of the stories of the 2022 World Cup. Atlas Lions became the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals, beating Belgium, Spain and Portugal, some of the strongest football nations in Europe.

But this was also the most successful World Cup collectively for teams from the African continent. The five African nations in the finals reached a record high with an average of 4.8 points per team in the group stage. Each team has won at least one match.

This was the first World Cup since 1978 (when only Tunisia qualified from Africa) where African teams all had African managers. Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia were each coached by a national coach. At the previous World Cup in 2018, only two of the five African teams had an African coach.

Otto Addo, who ran Ghana in the 2022 finals, believes the tournament “opened a lot of eyes as people saw that African and Asian teams could compete”.

“I think you can see the effect of the[African]coaches being loyal to the country. Also tactically, the teams were well prepared,” he says in an exclusive interview.

“It (sends) the message for you to take the next step, not only to create your own players, but also to create your own coaches. Also for federations to believe in coaches.

“I hope this inspires other coaches in Africa to believe in themselves, grow and maybe get a chance to represent their country.”

Its importance for the African Football Confederation CAF has not been lost. The statement said the five African managers leading their country “represent a giant step towards the development of African football”.

Addo, who also works as a talent coach for German club Borussia Dortmund, was first appointed assistant manager to Serbian Milovan Rajevac, Ghana’s former coach, in September 2021. In February, Addo became manager and then led Ghana to the World Cup finals. An exciting playoff win against Nigeria.

Playing for Ghana in the 2006 finals, Addo became the first Ghanaian coach to win a match at the World Cup when the country beat South Korea 3-2. However, Portugal (3-2) and Uruguay (2-0) defeats meant that Ghana was unable to advance to the qualifying stage.

There were many positive things to take in. Ghana has played impressive and exciting football. Ghana’s Mohammed Kudus scored a nice team goal after 31 passes with 10 of the 11 Ghanaian players involved in South Korea’s win, second in the group.

The World Cup, which ended with Argentina lifting the trophy on 18 December, shed light on the success of domestic coaches. Only one team had a foreign coach in the Round of 16 (South Korea). Historically, no team has ever won a World Cup with a foreign coach, and only two teams have made it to the finals.

Teams can still do well with international coaches. Ghana’s best World Cup performance in 2010, when they lost the quarterfinals on penalties, was overseen by Rajevac, for example.

But Addo believes that the tendency of African countries, in particular, to appoint European rulers is due to long-standing prejudices.

“Our history has a lot to do with this. When I look at Ghana – and that’s what my family was taught – it always says ‘everything good is from Europe,'” he says.

“When people come to people from Europe with a project or an interesting idea, it’s easier than believing someone from your home country.

“People have to believe in themselves and at the same time believe in their own people. We are role models. So if the FA puts an African or Ghanaian coach like me, people will see it and believe, ‘If he can do it, I can do it too’.

Born and raised in Germany, Addo wanted to create a culture that combined “the best of both worlds” in his World Cup squad.

He was conscious of the role of religion in Ghanaian culture from his parents and from his visits to Ghana as a child, for example. From his time playing and coaching in Germany, he brought European elements of team building.

“In the end, it’s about reliability. So whatever you say has to be believed by the players. It’s much easier if you know the background and culture of the players,” Addo says.

Addo wanted to respect tradition without clinging to it, while nurturing an open, collaborative culture based on trust, as other World Cup coaches have tried to do.

“For example, young people growing up especially in Ghana are sometimes afraid to ask questions. We wanted to build this open relationship where you can ask questions. You can even ask or criticize the coach if he is doing it in a reasonable and respectful way,” she says.

“This is the environment you want to create. No one should be afraid to tell me, even if they have other ideas.

“Sometimes players have good ideas for set pieces or something and I wanted them to come up with that so they could integrate into the process.”

He also hoped to inspire by sharing his own experiences as a player at the 2006 World Cup. In 2006, Ghana reached the Round of 16, playing against defending champions Brazil. Before the match, Cameroon’s legendary forward Samuel Eto’o wanted to meet with the players from Ghana.

He came into our locker room and gave a great talk about the importance of our game. (He said that even though we’re playing against Brazil, we have to believe in ourselves) Addo said.

“Before the game, I had goosebumps when a Cameroonian player came into the locker room to talk about the importance of this game and what it means not just for Ghana but for Africa.

“I told the players this story (to explain), it’s not about you as a player, it’s more about Africa specifically. It’s not just a game, it’s about creating a voice for Africa.”

Although Addo’s contract with the Ghana Football Association expired after the World Cup, he still wants to help build a legacy for future coaches.

Managers of Ghana’s youth teams under the age of 17, 19, 21 and 23 were invited to the World Cup with the A National Team. Addo has already spoken to the FA about returning to Ghana to bring the strategy and World Cup experience to the coaches.

Guiding the next generation has been a focus throughout Addo’s coaching career. He began managing the Under-19 side of German club Hamburger SV, which Tottenham Hotspur and South Korean star Son Heung-min helped develop.

He then cast a spell as assistant manager at Danish club FC Nordsjælland, which is owned by Africa’s nonprofit Right to Dream.

In 2020 Addo joined Dortmund as a talent coach. The wide-ranging role entrusts him with the on- and off-court development of the club’s most talented young players. Addo is “very happy” with the role but knows it’s “too hard to predict” what will happen around the corner in football.

“When something comes up that is interesting to me, I will definitely be open to it. But for the next 10 years, I can also see myself (in Dortmund) in this role,” he says.

Most of the top clubs in Europe now have African-born players on their roster, while the biggest leagues have very few African coaches. The only current manager with African heritage in Europe’s five major leagues is Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira, who plays for France but was born in Senegal.

“At the end of the day, football is just a reflection of society,” Addo says.

“You don’t see a lot of people of African descent in decisive positions, in Europe and sometimes even in Africa. It’s the same in football. Many people are now trying to change their minds a bit, but it’s a slow process.

“People don’t see Africans as big thinkers, strategically good people. I think that really hinders the progress of the coaches. This is a mindset that needs to be changed.

“We showed at the World Cup that African teams change their way of thinking. Now, for example, it’s also about Europeans changing theirs.”

During the World Cup, Morocco’s much-praised manager, Walid Regragui, said it was “impossible” for Europe’s top clubs to hire Arab and African managers.

Addo is more optimistic. He hopes that the performance of Morocco and the African teams led by African coaches could be a key moment in changing the perception of managers across the continent.

“You know what it’s like: the more you earn, the more people listen to you and the more you raise your voice,” Addo says.

“It’s very important for people to see that African cultures can do something. They’re also good, and it doesn’t matter if you’re white or black. You can have the same good strategies.

“Ultimately, it comes down to having someone or more people brave enough to do it and make those decisions based on performance, not how you look.

“I’m pretty sure it will come. I don’t know when, but it will come because in the end it’s about success and clubs have to be colorblind if they want to be successful.”

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