Last Friday, the GFA interviewed former France international Willy Sagnol for the vacant Black Stars job. Sagnol was interviewed along with former Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah and Cameroon boss Hugo Broos.
While Sagnol’s playing career was stellar, he’s relatively inexperienced in the dugout, chalking moderate successes with the France U-21 and Ligue 1 side Bordeaux, qualifying the latter to the Europa in his first season before getting sacked the following year.
Many have wondered how a man, accused of being a racist, following controversial comments on black players lacking “intelligence” has since found his way into contention for the Ghana job, albeit with slim chances.
The man responsible for bringing Sagnol to Ghana is Sarpong Boateng Okyere, CEO of Mirage Football Academy, the academy responsible for bringing Sagnol to Ghana in January of this year, few months before he put in his application to be the Ghana coach.
Starrsportsgh.com’s Fentuo Tahiru (FT) caught up with Sarpong Boateng Okyere (Sarps) on all things Willy Sagnol.
Read a full transcript of the interview below:
FT: Thank you for speak to us. Now there are several coaches that could possibly take the black stars job. Why Willy Sagnol?
Sarps: I believe with his pedigree and desire for the game he is the right candidate for the job. He has achieved a lot of success during his playing career both club and country, with 5 Major trophies under his belt with Bayern Munich and reaching the World Cup finals with France. He has played with high profile players such as Zidane , Makalele, Thierry Henry etc all of who are World Cup winners so the experience and winning mentality is there.
FT: Stellar playing career alone doesn’t guarantee you will be a good coach. Sagnol has never coached in Africa before either. What makes you confident he will succeed in Ghana?
Sarps: With his passion and winning mentality the hunger to learn and adapt to different task is inherent. Success comes from the ability to adapt to any situation and accomplish it. So by taking this job he is challenging himself. He’s showed in the past that he’s never afraid of a challenge. And with hard work, dedication and motivation he can succeed.
FT: One of the criticisms of Grant was his constant stay abroad. How much time will Sagnol spend in Ghana? Will he watch local league games?
Sarps: Willy’s plan is to be in Ghana 60 to 70% of the time helping the development of the local leagues from first division to premier division. He also intends to set up coaching camps and clinics for the local coaches developing and sharing the knowledge and experience he has acquired. He also wants to bring down high profile coaching colleagues to participate in these camps.
He believes we have a lot of talented kids that need the right training, so by developing youth academies it will be easier to get homegrown talent who can aim to be in the national team in the near future.
FT: Sagnol is relatively inexperienced, so what sort of past experiences does he have that can help him do a better job?
Sarps: Yes he doesn’t have the biggest coaching CV but with perseverance, drive and the knowledge of the game he can thrive. Pep Guardiola’s first coaching job was managing the Barcelona B team then straight into the main team and worked magic. So it’s really about your mindset, attitude willingness to learn and improve which he has done at Bordeaux and the French under 21s.
Let’s look at his playing career again being around top players and managers as a footballer you gain leadership skills over the years, for him to be part of a champions league winning team at Bayern Munich he bought into the managers principals and theory which he has carried with him throughout his career.
FT: His career has been bedeviled with controversy. People have labeled him a racist. So why should we believe that he would actually love working with African players since he was accused of calling the typical African player unintelligent?
Sarps: From what I know about Willy Sagnol he can never be a racist. The media took his words and statement wrongly. How can he be racist when his best friend is Makelele? He has great relationships with our very own Samuel Osei Kuffour whom he played with at Bayern Munich.
He was talking about your African players and their lack of tactical ability when they get to Europe and not their intelligence in the primary sense. They took his words out of context. Can you believe his childhood role model was and is still Roger Milla and he had posters of him in his room as a child? How can such a person be racist? He’s willing to spend most of his time here working to develop Ghana football.
FT: So how does he feel when he hears all these comments?
Sarps: It saddens him that he’s being gravely misrepresented. But he’s experienced enough to know how the media works. People twist things all the time. But deep down, he’s not worried because he knows he’s not what the media paint him to be.
FT: Lastly, we should be finding out who the next Ghana coach is in the coming days. How will Willy feel if he doesn’t get the job?
Sarps: He will remain professional. He’s a young coach and he knows many more opportunities will come his way. Of course it will disappoint him if he doesn’t get the job but there will be no hard feelings. He loves this country and I’m sure he will be coming back here again irrespective of whether he gets the job or not.
FT: Thank you very much. I wish you the best of luck.
Sarps: You’re welcome.