There is not one black coach in the top leagues of Europe’s five major championships and footballers are just as bitter as black actors in Hollywood.
“We can play but not lead, maybe the black man is only made to execute,” Florent Ibenge, the Democratic Republic of Congo coach, told AFP.
“You have got to ask the owners. People are there, trained, but no one trusts them.”
“The European clubs hardly give us a chance and they do not believe in us,” added Samson Siasia, who was named Nigeria’s interim coach last week.
“Many of us have not only played at the highest level in Europe, but have excelled. Yet even when we get our coaching badges there, these clubs still don’t give us the break we need to show what we can do outside the pitch.”
There is no black coach in the English Premier League and only Jimmy Hasselbaink at Queen’s Park Rangers in the second level Championship.
No black manager runs a French Ligue 1 team and only former Paris Saint-Germain boss Antoine Kombouare is at Lens in the second division. There have been none in Italy since AC Milan sacked Clarence Seedorf in 2014 after just five months in the post. There are no black coaches in Germany’s Bundesliga.
“It becomes obvious why you’re not being picked,” Chris Ramsey, who for a while was head coach at Queen’s Park Rangers in the Premier League, told the Leaders in Sport conference in London in October when describing his battle to get work.
“It’s been a long journey and it’s been very difficult.
“You have to keep going and make sure you don’t put your head down. Sometimes it’s about embarrassing people by showing it’s obvious they’re not picking you for obvious reasons.”
John Barnes syndrome
Is it discrimination, or training? “Something is really not right, but I don’t want to put any name to it,” said Siasia, who played for Nantes in France and Lokeren in Belgium before becoming a coach.
“Where is John Barnes with all he achieved at Liverpool and even though he grew up in England? He was not given much of a chance there as a coach.”
England’s Professional Footballers Association has called for a version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule to be introduced in the Premier League.
The rule introduced in 2003 forces American football clubs to interview ethnic minority candidates when a vacancy is posted.
The Premier League has indicated it is not going to introduce the rule yet but lower division clubs are going to start a pilot scheme.
Former England striker Les Ferdinand pointed out that Premier League clubs rarely hold interviews for jobs anyway. “Normally they have identified the next man they want.”
The lack of opportunities fuels a vicious circle where black players — who are still well represented as television pundits — are put off trying to be a coach.
“A black player is going to say ‘is it worth passing all the diplomas if no one is going to give me a job’,” said French sociologist Pascal Boniface who wrote a book with Pape Diouf, a black who was president of Olympique Marseille.
“Many of us have good records as players and then coaches, but because the European clubs do not believe in us, we end up having to do something else,” added Siasia.
“And even when they give us a chance, they are quick to dispense of us.”
Many African teams appear to prefer European coaches as well and this also hurts their players. Frenchman Herve Renard has just been named Morocco’s coach having won the Cup of African Nations with Ivory Coast and Zambia.
Ibenge said African federations should put more resources into training black coaches.
“We Africans ask that our leaders no longer put up discriminatory criteria such as race or nationality,” said Ibenge.