The French Disconnection: Zambia and Renard Part Company

By Editor | October 8th, 2013 8 Comments

Guest Post by *Hikabwa D. Chipande (@HikabwaChipande)

LUSAKA––The Football Association of Zambia and Hervé Renard have parted company after the 2012 African Nations Cup winning coach signed with French Ligue 1 club Sochaux. FAZ communications officer Eric Mwanza made the announcement on Monday (October 7) after much speculation that the Frenchman was on his way out. Rumors had been flying around Lusaka that the Frenchman was interviewing for jobs overseas. He had also hinted a few months ago before the Zambia vs Ghana 2014 World Cup qualifier that if the team were to fail to make it to Brazil then he’d resign.

Although FAZ indicated it consulted with Renard and “agreed not to stand in his way,” many Zambians have received this decision with mixed feelings. Some wondered whether Renard had just managed to sweet-talk and dump the national team as he did in an earlier stint with Chipolopolo (copper bullets).

In 2008, Renard landed the Chipolopolo job after working as an assistant to his fellow Frenchman and mentor Claude Leroy, then head coach of the Ghanaian national team, the Black Stars. Renard led Chipolopolo to the quarterfinal of the 2010 African Cup of Nations, a result last achieved at the 1996 tournament in South Africa. In 2010, he left Chipolopolo for better paying Angola, but was soon fired after going four games without a win. After Angola, Renard moved on to coaching USM Alger.

Following the dismissal of Italian coach Dario Bonetti, the Football Association of Zambia announced on October 22, 2011, that Renard would return as coach of the national team on a one-year contract. Peter Makembo, patron of the Zambia Soccer Fans Association, seemed to speak for many local fans when he questioned the loyalty of the French manager. After hearing that Renard was being interviewed at FC Sochaux a few weeks ago, Makembo told Radio Ichengelo that, “as soccer fans we feel betrayed by Renard’s actions.”

However, Renard silenced all his critics in his second tenure at the helm of Chipolopolo by winning the 2012 African Nations Cup: Zambia’s first-ever continental crown. His charges dispatched favourites Senegal in the group stages and African powerhouses Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in the semi-final and final respectively.

There is no doubt that Renard will remain one of the most respected and loved coaches in the history of Zambian football because of the African title he brought to the country. But some critics point out that he only came back when it suited him and that he reaped where he did not sow since Bonetti, whom he replaced, had done the groundwork for Chipolopolo’s success.

Other Zambians remarked that Renard came here as an inexperienced player and used Zambia to build his coaching resumè before leaving for greener pastures. This is a common phenomenon not only in African sport, but in donor-funded development projects too. Typically, “Western” volunteers arrive, are mentored by local men and women, and then return to their countries where they often become “experts” paid to supervise the Africans who originally taught them much of what they know.

The question remains: is there anything wrong in a European professional coming to an African country like Zambia to build his profile only to leave for a more prestigious, high-paying job? From my point of view, this is how things are and there is little we can do apart from getting used to it. We also need to be realistic and come to terms with the fact that inexperienced, ambitious coaches like Hervé Renard are what poorer countries like Zambia can attract and afford to pay. Few African nations can hire exaggeratedly expensive coaches like the Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira, as South Africa did for the 2010 World Cup. (Interestingly, South Africa became the first host nation in World Cup history to be eliminated in the first round of the competition.)

From 2010 to 2013, Renard proved that he is a good coach by delivering what all previous Zambian skippers failed to do: win the African Nations Cup. Many Zambians argue that he is the best foreign coach Zambia has ever had, sometimes in tandem with Yugoslav Ante Buselic who took Chipolopolo to second place in the 1974 Nations Cup in Egypt. Without question, Renard will remain close to the hearts of millions of Zambian soccer fans for a very long time.

However, the Frenchman’s failure to defend the African title and Chipolopolo’s premature elimination from the 2014 World Cup qualifiers compelled FAZ to part ways with Renard. Luckily for Zambia, Renard’s new employers rejected his proposal of bringing his assistant Patrice Beaumelle, also French, to Sochaux. As a result, Beaumelle was chosen as interim head coach of the national team.

Depending on how the new Frenchman will command the Chipolopolo during the friendly match against Brazil in China in a few days’ time, he is likely to be confirmed as Renard’s permanent replacement. Zambians hope that Beaumelle will perform the same miracle as his predecessor, even if he’s only here to strengthen his coaching pedigree before moving on to the next level of world football.

Hikabwa D. Chipande is a PhD student at Michigan State University. He is currently in Lusaka conducting archival research and oral history interviews for a doctoral dissertation on the social, cultural, and political history of football in colonial and postcolonial Zambia. Follow him on Twitter: @HikabwaChipande


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October 8th, 2013 | 1:52 pm    

It is also worth noting that herve renard was scheduled to ezpire in 2014. With no competitve fixtures between now and then, this was probably the best moment in tym to part ways with our dear Herve Renard.

Milu Muyanga

October 8th, 2013 | 2:31 pm    

Me like “Other Zambians remarked that Renard came here as an inexperienced player and used Zambia to build his coaching resumè before leaving for greener pastures. This is a common phenomenon not only in African sport, but in donor-funded development projects too. Typically, “Western” volunteers arrive, are mentored by local men and women, and then return to their countries where they often become “experts” paid to supervise the Africans who originally taught them much of what they know.”

Ed Milah

October 9th, 2013 | 4:02 am    

Renard has left, which provides Zambia with an opportunity to take stock and chart the way forward not only about who takes over as coach – no vacancy, by the way, owing to promotion of assistant coach Patrice to head coach role. The bigger questions for me: where are we as nation in football terms? Where do we want to be? How shall we get there?

Where we are might speak to status of administration and management of football, technical issues (coaching, refereeing, sports medicine, sports psychology, nutrition, etc), infrastructure, football marketing, league separate from FAZ, youth football development (let us have our under 17s, 20s and 23s become a permanent feature of youth competitions), etc. The flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today, I hear. We needn’t just be a people who wait until a few plants germinate on their own and then we begin to weed and claim we have done a great deal.

Where we want to be is an issue of what picture of the preferred future we have. For so long we have been called a footballing nation (largely called by ourselves).

How we want to get to be a top footballing nation proper is a key issue, for me at least, because unless we know how to get to our destination, any route will do.

In my view, people can say what they want about how we got to be African champs but the truth is that those seeds were planted by some of the people who did not participate in the harvest.

That is my say!


October 10th, 2013 | 1:35 am    

Mzee Milu Muyanga, I am glad that you like that, any similarities with the situation in Kenya? I know that I lot has been happening in Kenyan football.

Ed Milah, you are spot-on that the flowers of tomorrow are seeds of today. But don’t you think that Kalusha Bwalya’s administration has been doing well in this department: Two under 20 national teams that had been doing fairly well in the region and a new under 17 national team every year with the courtesy of Airtel (mobile phone service provider) under the Airtel Rising Starts program. You also seem to agree with the view that Herve Renard reaped where he did not saw??

Yanda you are right that Herve Renard was going to have less to do between now and mid of 2014 in terms of international fixtures, but was this not the right time for him to fold his sleeves (like Dario Bonetti did) and build a solid team for AFCON 2015?? Are you happy that has left??


October 10th, 2013 | 2:10 am    

The lack of competive fixtures between now and mid 2014 is indeed an opprortunity to build. But his selection for the brazil freindly clearly shows that he was not going to utilise this period to overhaul the squad. I felt that he should have selected a blend of a few experienced players and more players from the developmental sides or atleast explained his reasons for selecting aged players. In my view has entrenched his faith in the afcon 2012 champions despite their recent failures. Yes I am happy that he has left, I hope faz has now started the process of selecting a long term replacement. Eyes on the Ball.

Ed Milah

October 10th, 2013 | 3:14 am    

Kalusha’s administration has been doing well? Well, that is arguable, in my opinion. What is not arguable is that Kalusha took great free kicks in his day! Believe me, if Zambia did not win last year’s edition of the Africa Cup, things would not have gone the way they went at that year’s AGM. Renard reaping where he did not sow? He left for Angola after things did not go his way with the national team during his first stint with Zambia and came back after Bonetti qualified the team with a game or so to spare in the qualifiers, so whereas he was there from the time the crop ripened, I would ask: how many games did he oversee prior to lifting the cup? How many players did he unearth after Bonetti? I would argue that Bonetti would have come back with the cup too.

As for under 17 and under teams, I would want to look at a picture larger than regional or rising stars. I am not a lofty dreamer but I think that we can only claim to be a football powerhouse if we become a permanent feature at continental and global under 17, under 20 1nd under 23 games – not just regional games. Aren’t we local champs? I still remember the exploits of the 1999 under 20 team at continental and world games – and that isn’t raising the bar too high. Question(s): what did we do right to get there at the time? Do we still remember what we did then to get there? I still remember the likes of Andrew Sinkala, Chintu Kampamba, Ronald Mbambara(?), Emmanuel Zulu, Ian Bakala, as the crop of players that raised our flag. Good structures churn out such quality with regularity – and it’s no fluke! It is planned! It is not anyhow but somehow!

When Jan Brouwer was banned by CAF from coaching the national team, I helped him write a project proposal: Focus on Youth Sport. This was intended to help a number of sports federations (netball, football, volleyball, athletics and – I think – basketball) to train sports teachers,

Milu Muyanga

October 10th, 2013 | 6:54 am    

Mzee, in the Kenyan case, I usually blame the fans and guys who manage sports, most of them are politicians and don’t appreciate sportsmen and coaches efforts.

Fans: at one point we had a Reinhard Fabisch as the coach for the national team. every time we won a match, fans were like “Fabisch for president, Reinhard Fabisch for president”. The day he lost, “Reinhard Fabisch must GO”. In any sport, losing a match is a part of the game.

Management: sports are managed by “politicians” in for money and not for the developments of sports and sportsmen; thank God you guys have people like Kalusha Bwalya in Zambia; this is not the case in Kenya. They are willing to pay foreign coaches a lot of money but the locals just peanuts. We once had a local coach “Ghost” Mulei who was doing so well, but had to go because of low pay and the “must go” thing once you lose a single match. I believe the local coaches understand our circumstances better than the foreign coaches and must be encouraged and paid well to coach our national teams; unless we go for a foreign package that includes a coach and players too. The day I will become the president, not of sports but of the country of course, my minister for sports will be a former sportsman, and so will be the managers– before election, those guys will be doing two laps, pick number 1 to 20, close gates, and we go to elections. Those huge tummies will be knocked out technically!


October 11th, 2013 | 12:36 pm    

Great arguments Ed Milah! There is no doubt that if Zambia did not win the Afcon in 2012, things could not have gone Kalusha Bwalya’s way during the FAZ executive committee elections. I agree that Zambia can only claim to be a powerhouse in African football after becoming a permanent feature at continental and global level in under 17, 20 and 23 competitions. The challenging issue with most African teams in these competitions is age cheating which makes the competitions not a proper gauge of football development.
Yanda Hamilemba, I concur with you that our good Herve Renard was somehow saturated with success from Afcon 2012. This is why he displayed no creativity in the Afcon 2013 and 2014 World Cup qualifiers leading to Zambia’s early ejection. I think that Renard’s early departure was also good for his own reputation to prevent what happened to Ante Buselic the Yugoslav coach who led Zambia to second place in the 1974 Nations Cup finals in Egypt. Buselic used his 1974 success to negotiate for a better contract with his employers: a hundred percent salary increment, education allowances for his kids and 4 months leave every year. The following years 1975 and 1976 were so disastrous for him resulting in his contract not being renewed at the end of 1976.
Mzee Milu Muyanga, football administration is full of drama not only in Kenya, but everywhere. A Director of Sports in one Southern African country once told me that, “football is administered by mafias from the lowest to the highest level.” This could explain why it is not easy to unseat those guys with huge tummies in football administration. On the other hand as you have seen from Ed Milah’s comments, even Kalusha Bwalya who was 1988 African Footballer of the year is not having it easy here in Zambia. I like your idea of a two laps physical test for all those who will aspire for football leadership when you become president of Kenya because it will give me an opportunity to come as an expatriate football administrator. On the other hand, there is a view that, “one does not need to be a horse to become a jockey.” What is your take on that one?

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