Windhoek - Seven Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries have qualified for the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations.
This is the first time in the history of the competition that several countries from the region are competing at the Afcon at the same time.
While everyone has praised and even rewarded the players for taking the region to the continent’s biggest football showpiece, the brains behind the qualification - the coaches – seem to have been forgotten.
There are four SADC citizens, a Nigerian, an Englishman and a Serbian, who will be in charge of SADC countries when the regional bloc takes on the rest of the continent at the 2019 Nations Cup in June.
Ricardo Giovanni Mannetti
Former Namibian national team player, Mannetti, will be in charge as the Brave Warriors make their third appearance at Afcon. Mannetti, who now ranks as the most successful Brave Warriors coach of all time, remains the only coach in history to win a trophy with Namibia’s national team. Against all the odds, the former Civics, Santos Cape Town, and Bush Bucks midfielder won the country’s first title, Cosafa Cup, in 2015.
The 43-year-old steered the country to Afcon finals despite having to deal with local players, who at some point were inactive because there was no local premier league. This is also Mannetti’s second stint as the national team coach after he initially resigned three weeks after winning the Cosafa title. However, he was re-appointed as coach in September 2015 after patching things up with the Namibia Football Association.
“We need to get behind and support local coaches the same way people do when (foreigners) are in charge of our national teams,” Mannetti said after the last Afcon qualifier match against Zambia.
Sunday ‘Mhofu’ Chidzambwa
Chidzambwa is a national hero. He was the first coach to take the Warriors of Zimbabwe to their first Afcon finals held in Tunisia in 2004. He has three Cosafa Cup titles to his name, along with several championships with Dynamos – a Zimbabwean club.
Chidzambwa, apart from captaining Dynamos to five league titles, also coached the club to seven league titles making him the most decorated Dynamos coach in club history.
He has also taken charge of South African premier league soccer clubs, Black Leopards (twice) and Free State Stars.
The 66-year-old was banned for life in October 2012 over the Asiagate scandal. Asiagate is the name of the match-fixing scandal that involved players and officials of the Zimbabwe national football team. Zimbabwe's national team (sometimes composed of local players) underwent tours of Asia and lost several games, which led to suspicions of match-fixing. Chidzambwa’s ban was, however, overturned in 2015.
“I felt like a prisoner on death row over Asiagate,” he said after the ban was overturned.
He came back to national team structures after he was appointed as one of three Zimbabwe national team coaches in July 2017. He was elevated to the status of a permanent coach in December 2017.
Andriamanarivo, appointed in May 2018, will lead the Madagascar national team to their first ever Afcon finals. Andriamanarivo and his troops did so in style as they became the first nation to qualify for Afcon already in October last year.
In a bid to qualify for the first Afcon, Andriamanarivo went on a scout mission around the globe to rope in players of Malagasy. Andriamanarivo roped in the players, who have only even the slightest blood of Malagasy ‑ a strategy that paid off as they qualified after just round four of the matches.
Signs of Afcon qualification were there when Andriamanarivo, just appointed in May 2018, led Madagascar to the 2018 COSAFA Cup semi-finals in June – where they lost to Zambia.
Madagascar’s qualification under Andriamanarivo coincides with the tenure of his countryman, Ahmad Ahmad, as the president of the Confederation of African Football. The 50-year-old, Andriamanarivo is also a former national player.
Jean-Florent Ikwange Ibengé
Another SADC citizen, who will take charge of his own country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, at this year’s Afcon is Jean-Florent Ikwange Ibengé. Ibengé is a man with a lot of dynamism as he has been managing the national team and a football club, As Vita, at the same time since 2014.
He led the national team to the 2015 Afcon semi-final, losing to eventual winners, Ivory Coast.
The 57-year-old also led DRC to the 2016 African Nations Championship title in February 2016. He was the manager of Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua from April to May 2012.
Amunike is a Nigerian football coach and former player who is manager of the Tanzania national team since August 2018. He took the country to Afcon finals after a 39-year wait. Under Amunike, some previously landless players will become proud landowners after the country’s president John Pombe Magufuli promised to reward the players with land as a token of appreciation for qualifying for Afcon. It is not clear whether the reward would be extended to Amunike.
The 48-year-old represented Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup but injuries plagued his professional career. He scored twice at the 1994 World Cup. In 1994, Amunike scored the two goals that helped Nigeria win the Nations Cup final in Tunisia. Amunike is an Olympic gold medalist with Nigeria’s Under-23 team in Atlanta in 1996. Amunike also played for Spanish giants Barcelona from 1996 to 2000.
The charismatic former Nigerian star has held several coaching positions and took Nigeria to the Under-17 World Cup title in Chile. He coached Sudanese club Al Khartoum SC in November 2017 and left the club in March 2018.
Baxter is a much-travelled coach. Born in 1953 in Wolverhampton, England, Baxter is in his second stint as the Bafana Bafana coach with his first spell coming in 2004. Re-appointed in 2017 after getting the sack in November 2005, Baxter has coached more than 19 club and countries. This includes South Africa’s local clubs Kaizer Chiefs and Supersport. He also had stints with England’s Under 19 as well as Finland’s national team.
He has dual citizenship of Scotland and England. Baxter played professionally for a number of clubs in England, Scotland, Australia, Sweden and in the United States.
Is a Serbian football manager and former player. He is the current manager of Angola, who qualified the Palancas Negras for Afcon on the last day of qualification with a 1-0 victory against Botswana.
He was appointed as Angolan manager in 2017.
At an early age, Vasiljevic played for the Red Star Belgrade youth team. He played for several clubs such as Radnički Beograd, Borac Čačak (twice), Obilić, Rad and Sartid Smederevo, before moving abroad for greener pastures. In 2001, he played for Romanian club Dinamo București. The 45-year-old also made two appearances in the 2002/3 UEFA Cup.
After retiring, he took charge of several Serbian clubs such as Javor Ivanjica (twice), Čukarički, and BSK Borča.