Debbah’s Coaching Ability Put To Test
By Julu M. Johnson, Jr.
James Salinsa Debbah, a legendary former footballer, has the entire country in anxiety with his coaching prowess on the line ahead of the match between Liberia’s Lone Star and the Hawks of Togo in the fifth round of the 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers.
The match will be played at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) on Sunday, June 5, 2016 in Monrovia. Very new to coaching, Debbah caused shock when his Lone Star side grabbed the first three points with a narrow 1-0 win against Tunisia last year with veteran Poland manager Henryk Kasperczak in charge.
As a player, Kasperczak took part in two FIFA World Cups with Poland, ending third place in 1974, and a silver medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. As a manager, Kasperczak first led Tunisia to 1996 African Cup of Nations second place, third with Côte d'Ivoire (1994) and fourth with Mali (2002).
He also coached Morocco and Senegal. In France, he coached FC Metz, AS Saint-Étienne, Racing Strasbourg, Racing Club de Paris, Montpellier HSC and Lille OSC.
Now Debbah is out to be face to face another foreign trainer with huge African experience and achievements. He is none other but Frenchman Claude Le Roy. In April 2016, Le Roy replaced Belgian Tom Saintfiet and penned a three year deal with the Togo national team.
His arrival gave a boost for Togo as he was able to convince star striker Emmanuel Adebayor to stay on and now part of the squad heading to Monrovia. Le Roy last coached Congo Brazzaville after previous stints with Senegal, DR Congo, Ghana and Cameroon.
Outside Africa, he managed the Omani national football team and later Syria. Le Roy led Cameroon as runners-up in the 1986 African Cup of Nations and then champions in the 1998 event. He then took charge of Senegal when they reached the quarterfinals at the 1992 African Cup of Nations, and returned to Cameroon to lead the Indomitable Lions during the 1998 World Cup. He also coached Malaysia national team from 1994 to 1995 and became the new coach of the Syria national team in March 2011, but resigned in May of the same year.
Given the vast experience and success of the Liberian manager’s upcoming rival, many may say Debbah would be in a state of fear. Liberia Football Association (LFA) President Musa Bility surprisingly unveiled Debbah on November 21, 2014 as head coach of the national team with no prior coaching knowledge.
Alongside Debbah, the LFA also named Kelvin Sebwe as deputy, while Washington Blay is Administrative Manager. But Debbah has so far done what a number of foreign managers, hired by his nation, have failed to do.
Having lost his first match away to Togo last year, the former super star, with plenty playing experience in Europe, has ably walked his way to the top of the table with two matches to go.
With nine points for Liberia, Tunisia and Togo have seven points. Thus, Liberians cannot wait to see Debbah performing similar coaching magic against a Togo side with big name Adebayor on the pitch and the veteran Le Roy on the sideline. For the match, CAF has appointed Egyptian referee Gehad Geisha for Liberia's crucial 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifier.