Osasu Obayiuwana: Substitutes for experience; but will they be Supersubs?

When Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, was recently appointed as UEFA’s coaching ambassador, he gave what I thought was a logical piece of advice for the next generation of managers.

“I would say to every young coach – make sure that you prepare and give yourselves the best opportunities by getting their (UEFA) licenses. It is very important.

“Even when they get their licenses, they need to ensure they attend all the coaching seminars… They are being thrust into an industry which is becoming more and more difficult, in terms of achieving results.”

But two high-profile coaching appointments last month, in two different continents, have paid no attention to the Scot’s point of view.

Dutchman Clarence Seedorf has taken charge of AC Milan, where he spent 10 distinguished years as a midfielder, whilst Ahmed ‘Mido’ Hossam, the former Egypt striker that had a remarkable club career in Belgium, Holland, Italy and England, is at the helm of Cairo club Zamalek.

Little needs to be said about the history and achievements of the Rossoneri, since its formation in 1899.

But for those wondering about Zamalek, which celebrated its 103rd birthday at the start of the year, it ranks only second, to city arch-rivals Ahly, in its achievements at home and on the African continent – with five CAF Champions League and 11 domestic titles to its credit, with a supporters’ base in the millions.

Seedorf and Mido share interesting similarities – they are taking on big jobs at young ages, both lack requisite coaching experience, both played for the clubs they are now managing and neither have the right coaching diplomas or, in Mido’s case, none at all.

Seedorf was given special dispensation from the Italian football authorities to be allowed to take up the Milan job, because the 37-year-old lacked the requisite qualifications, as laid down by them, which is a UEFA Pro-license.

And let’s not forget the fact that Seedorf is the first black person to take sole charge at a Serie A club, a record that will certainly come with its distinct burdens, as racist chanting from the terraces remains a serious problem that Italy’s authorities are yet to aggressively confront.

The last black coach to guide a leading Italian team was Brazilian Jarbas ‘Cane’ Faustinho, who took joint control of Napoli in 1994-95, alongside Vujadin Boskov.

What will Seedorf do when opposing fans try to bait him with racist abuse, as I reckon they certainly will?

Or when some of Milan’s extremist supporters decide to turn against him, should he be unable to reverse its flagging fortunes?

The answers to those questions will be very interesting…

Mido also has a first, as the youngest coach in the history of Egypt’s top division.

But in contrast to Milan, where the decision to appoint Seedorf was straightforward, once owner Silvio Berlusconi had decided to give him the job, the Zamalek board did not come to a unanimous choice of Mido.

“Our decision was split and we had to vote. Those against the appointment were afraid to take the risk, since Mido has no coaching experience, with all respect to his outstanding football career as a player. Don’t forget, Zamalek is a big club,” said board member Ayman Younes.

A former Zamalek and Egypt defender, Younes voted against the appointment.

But a confident Mido insists he has the tools for the job.

“I had many offers on the table. One of them was to manage Paris Saint German (PSG) youngsters and another was from Masry (another first division Egyptian club).

“I turned them both down for the sake of Zamalek, even though both clubs offered much more money for my services than Zamalek.

“Some people have doubts regarding my age and lack of experience, but everyone who knows Mido will tell you that I’ve always been a leader inside and outside the pitch… It is my destiny to be in the place I have loved since being a little kid and that I’m sure to be a success with the club.”

Mido the manager will certainly need to display a lot more maturity and restraint than Mido the player.

During the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals against Senegal, with the game tied at 1-1, Mido went into a foul-mouthed tirade against national coach Hassan Shehata, for substituting him in favour of Amr Zaki, who went on to score the winning goal within a minute of his entry on the field.

Mido’s insubordination, in front of a global television audience, led to his expulsion from the tournament and a subsequent six-month suspension, for which he expressed no regret.

Now in the manager’s chair, one can only wonder how he would react, should a Zamalek player disrespect him in that way.

I guess you’ve deduced that I am clearly against the principle of parachuting players, even those with distinguished careers, as Seedorf and Mido had, into top jobs.

Having a good tactical brain as a player or even having an aptitude for coaching is no substitute for having the proper training and preparation to deal with the present-day pressure-cooker environment of management.

Playing is one thing and management is certainly another.

Milan and Zamalek, two clubs whose officials ought to know better, opted for inexperience, when their lack of achievement in recent years suggests that experienced and steady coaching hands are needed to reverse their flagging fortunes.

I have a feeling that both appointments will end up in tears.

But the remainder of the Egyptian and Italian seasons will ultimately tell the story, won’t it?

Osasu Obayiuwana, a lawyer and BBC broadcaster, as well as the Associate Editor of NewAfrican magazine, is one of the world’s leading journalists on African football. His regular commentary on the state of the African game can also be read at footballisafrica.com. Contact him at moc.l1685864797labto1685864797ofdlr1685864797owedi1685864797sni@a1685864797nawui1685864797yabo.1685864797usaso1685864797

Osasu is also a member of FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force.