With the seventh edition of the TotalEnergies African Nations Championship (CHAN) set to kick-off in Algeria on 13 January, we take a close look at all the 18 coaches as they begin their quest for the prestigious trophy.
Among the coaches in this year’s competition are veterans and rookies with the single aim of winning the title while eyeing other top jobs in the industry.
Here are their profiles and how the performance of their teams in this continental competition, designed just for home-based players, could go a long way in defining their destiny.
Amir Abdou (Mauritania)
When it comes to fairytale stories in African football over the years, very few beat Abdou’s impressive run at the AFCON 2021 in Cameroon last year when his Comoros side stunned Ghana 3-2 in their last Group C game to make it to the Round of 16 at their first time of asking.
The 50-year-old is now back to the continental stage a year later in the open pursuit of more success and in more ways than one to show that it was not a fluke.
Abdou is known to be very meticulate in his approach to coaching. He has found massive respect in Mauritania and the fans back home believe that he is the right man to improve their chances of conquering Africa.
With local experience having coached Mauritanian top-flight outfit FC Nouadhibou, he comes into the tournament with a great understanding of his players and has shown excitement at the possibilities that his team have in Algeria.
Alioum Saidou (Cameroon)
Saidou is the fifth coach with Cameroon in five different CHAN editions so there is pressure to deliver from the fans back home and to make things more interesting, this will be Saidou’s first major assignment as a coach.
Formerly working with Turkish club Istanbul Basaksehir as a scout and deputy coach between 2014 and 2019, the 44-year-old is expected to not only better Cameroon’s fourth place finish at the last edition at home but to challenge for the title.
And if there is someone who loves a good challenge, it is Saidou. Appointed in August last year, he has steadily brought confidence into his squad and will be looking to hit the ground running.
The former versatile midfielder who featured for Coton Sport of Garoua back in the early 2000s before moving abroad where he played for Turkish and French clubs. With his experience of playing at the high level, he will now use that expertise in his first major job in international football.
Burhan Tia (Sudan)
A veteran in Sudanese football, Tia started coaching in 1995 and has since built his name as a lethal coach who likes to be holistic. His players know it and they have adapted to this style.
Their 7-3 aggregate win over Djibouti in the qualifiers gave the fans a glimpse into what this team can achieve but they have their work cut out in a group that has the reigning champions Morocco, Madagascar, and Ghana.
Tia, who was appointed in December 2021, led Sudan at the AFCON 2021 and only managed a point to finish third in Group D behind Nigeria and eventual finalists Egypt. His side found the back of the net just once – a big concern that he will be hoping to address when the CHAN gets underway this week.
He will be hoping to draw from his extensive coaching experience back home with a host of clubs including Al Mourada, giants Al Merreikh, Al Ahli, Al Thagher, Hay Al-Arab, Alamal Atbara, Kadougli-based club Al Hilal, Al Merreikh Al Fasher, Al Hilal Al Fasher, Al Neel and Al-Tuti.
Chiquinho Conde (Mozambique)
A former international who played at three AFCONs in 1986, 1996 and 1998 with Mozambique, Conde has international experience but now must convert that into coaching success.
The 57-year-old former striker has instilled a new-found belief in his squad and as the Mambas were the first team to arrive in Algeria for this year’s CHAN edition, confidence is high inside their camp.
In a tough group that has the hosts Algeria, Libya and Ethiopia, Conde has his work cut out but their 1-0 aggregate win over Zambia in the qualifiers is enough evidence to show their never-give-up attitude that has seen them pose a real threat.
For Conde, this is yet a perfect opportunity to show that he can deliver.
Corentin Martins (Libya)
A lot has changed since Libya won the CHAN 2014 edition in South Africa both within the team and on the continent and as the Mediterranean Knights look to regain the crown, they will look to Martins experience in the region.
Seven years in charge of Mauritania have given the former French international massive insight on what to expect and that is expected to come to use in Algeria.
Libya face the hosts in the tournament’s opener on January 13 will look towards Martins leadership to get a positive result.
Diané Nouhoum (Mali)
A renowned aficionado for attacking football, Nouhoum will be looking to replicate that in this year’s CHAN once again.
The 58-year-old former midfielder who plied his trade in several clubs in Côte d’Ivoire will be seeking to repeat his team’s form at the last edition in 2021 where they reached the final, losing 2-0 to eventual champions Morocco.
As is the case with many teams, Mali has lost some key players including Siaka Bakayoko who have moved to other leagues outside Mali and therefore no longer eligible to feature at CHAN but Nouhoum is confident that his current side will do the job.
Nouhoum, who is also the coach of Real Bamako in the Mali top-flight league, is not one to shy away from responsibility and juggling these two roles has helped him keep an eye on all his players during the season.
Harouna Doula (Niger)
If there is a face that is significant with Niger football, it is Doula’s. The 56-year-old has been in and out of the national team from as far back as 2009 when he was first appointed to the helm.
Celebrated eternally for qualifying the Mena to their first ever AFCON at the 2012 edition, Doula also qualified Niger to their first CHAN edition in 2011 in Sudan. Prior to that, he had won the UEMOA tournament in 2010 to establish cult-hero status.
In charge of Niger for a second consecutive edition, Doula will be hoping that the Mena qualify out of Group E where they are up against Cameroon and Congo.
Issame Charai (Morocco)
Winning back-to-back titles means Morocco is the joint most successful nation at the CHAN alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo, however, that means more pressure for Charai who just took over the team.
Appointed as the U23 head coach last year, the 40-year-old tactician understands the expectations at hand for a country that less than a month ago witnessed reaching the last four at a World Cup – the first African team to achieve that feat.
Bouncing off that success will be very key for the Atlas Lions who are now accustomed to winning this competition organized for home-based players.
While his predecessors Jamal Sellami and Houcine Ammouta had significant success in the Botola League at home and in CAF inter-club competitions, this will be Charai’s first international assignment. He will be hoping that his experience as the assistant coach of Belgian top-flight side Beerschot comes in handy.
Jean Elie Ngoya Obackas (Congo)
Obackas goes into this year’s CHAN edition with previous experience as the Congo U23 head coach but he admits this is a whole different ball game.
He understands the test at hand and is expected to deliver in his first real challenge in this position.
Edging the Central African Republic following a 2-2 draw to progress on the away goals rule in the qualifiers showed the team’s grit, but they will have to dig deep in Algeria.
Against Cameroon and Niger, Obackas knows that every tie is a final in this three-team Group E that is expected to produce mouthwatering football.
Madjid Bougherra (Algeria)
There are not many things for a national team coach that trumps leading your team to victory at a major tournament in front of very passionate fans.
Bougherra has made his nation proud in the past after winning the FIFA Arab Cup in December 2021 in Qatar but now he wants to drink from the same cup and deliver Algeria’s first CHAN trophy at home.
Should he put his ducks in a row, Bougherra who already has cult-hero status in Algeria, North Africa and the Middle East now wants to conquer the whole of Africa.
The former international, who played as a central defender, is known for his very ambitious and straightforward approach that is expected to be reflected in how his side approach the tournament as they pursue glory.
Milutin Sredojevic aka Micho (Uganda)
If pragmatic was a middle name, it would belong to Milutin Sredojevic nicknamed ‘Micho’.
In charge of the Uganda Cranes for the third time at CHAN (2014 and 2016 ), the Serbian Wolf as he is also commonly known as, has amassed massive experience working on the continent.
From his days at SC Villa in Uganda as far back as the start of this century to coaching giants St George in Ethiopia, two stints at Orlando Pirates, Yanga in Tanzania, Al Hilal in Sudan before joining international football with Rwanda and then Uganda, Micho has seen it all.
However, in Algeria, he faces a big challenge – to break the jinx that is qualifying out of the group stages. The Cranes have failed to achieve that in the past five editions and now the fans back home expect nothing less than progressing at the bare minimum.
But Micho has broken a hovering jinx with Uganda in the past when he inspired the Cranes to the AFCON 2017 in Gabon ending a 39-year wait to the continent’s biggest showpiece. This achievement will motivate him and his side in Algeria that impossible is nothing.
Otis Ngoma (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Replacing Florent Ibenge, a household name on the continent, who guided the Leopards to the CHAN 2016 title in Rwanda is no mean feat.
Ngoma must now write his own chapter back home when he leads the Democratic Republic of Congo in Algeria. In a footballing country where everyone demands success, Ngoma is under immense pressure to win the trophy.
The former Renaissance of Congo and DC Motema Pembe manager once a respected player in his days, Ngoma must now deliver in his new role. His side convincingly defeated Libya 3-1 in a friendly game in Tunisia on Saturday and with that result, DR Congo look like they are ready for the task at hand.
The Leopards are in a tough group B alongside Côte d’Ivoire, neighbours Uganda and Senegal.
Pape Thiaw (Senegal)
Thiaw’s biggest ticket to fame was his involvement in the Senegal side that wowed everyone at the 2002 World Cup when they defeated France 1-0 in their debut game at the competition before going on to reach the quarterfinals.
More than two decades down the road, Thiaw is now on the right track to further improve his budding coaching career. After taking over the team following the demise of Joseph Koto, Thiaw inspired Senegal to this year’s CHAN for the first time in 11 years.
He is the man that has been trusted to deliver the treble for Senegal who are the reigning AFCON and Beach Soccer AFCON champions or to at least equal or better Senegal’s fourth place finish at the inaugural CHAN edition in 2009.
Pedro Gonçalves (Angola)
Four years ago, Gonçalves guided Angola to their first ever FIFA U17 World Cup that took place in Brazil. Since then, he has been growing from strength to strength in Angola and when he was handed the reins with the Palancas Negras, he has not looked back.
Eight wins in 12 games with just one loss last year has shown that he is on the right path of building a solid team. Qualification to this year’s CHAN edition was received with applause by the fans back home but now they demand even more success.
In a tricky Group D with Mali and Mauritania, Angola face an uphill task but Gonçalves believes that they have what it takes to get out of the group stages.
Romuald Rakotondrabe (Madagascar)
Since finishing top of Group B at the AFCON 2021 in Egypt ahead of eventual bronze medallists Nigeria before reaching the quarterfinals in their debut appearance, Malagasy football has been on the rise since then and the Barea are no longer considered minnows on the continent.
To further expand this change in status, Rakotondrabe commonly known as Roro was handed the head coach role.
His league victory while still active in club football in charge of AS Adema in 2021 showcased his expertise and gives a glimpse into how far he can go at the CHAN.
Madagascar finds themselves in the same group with the defending champions Morocco, Sudan and Ghana. Roro’s first task is to qualify the Barea out of the group stages and he believes that he can deliver on this test.
Soualiho Haidara (Côte d’Ivoire)
Haidara is a household name in Côte d’Ivoire. He previously handled the national side that went to the AFCON U23 final losing to hosts Egypt in the final before reaching the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympic Games in the summer of 2021.
This feat gave him confidence to apply for the Elephants job but when he did not get it, he was handed the local side in July last year and he never looked back.
The Local Elephants edged Burkina Faso 5-3 on penalties following two goalless draws over two legs in the Qualifiers and this resilience is what Haidara hopes to see in Algeria when his side takes to the pitch.
Côte d’Ivoire are in a tough Group B alongside two-time champions Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Senegal.
A doyen in Ghanaian football, Annor has been on the block for a while. Many back home know him for being in charge of Nania FC – a club owned by the legendary Abedi Pele.
But now he has switched to international football and the CHAN 2022 will be his first assignment with a national team. Now in charge of FC Smartex, Annor wants to build on his experience in the topflight league at home where he has also overseen Great Olympics and Berekum Chelsea.
His side’s goalless draw against hosts Algeria over the weekend gave glimpses of hope for a side that can achieve a lot under Annor whose ambition is to win the trophy on February 4 in Algiers.
Wubetu Abate (Ethiopia)
Abate had playing stints in the Ethiopian top-flight league in the 1990s but injuries forced him into early retirement and he switched to coaching in 2007.
Four years later, he won the league title with giants Ethiopia Coffee and has since coached several clubs including CBE, Hawassa City, Fasil Kenema and Sebeta City.
He has also coached in Sudan at Al Ahly Shendy – an experience that gave him more experience and that is expected to come in handy in Algeria.
Returning to the CHAN after missing out in 2018 and 2020, Abate guided Ethiopia past Rwanda who had become a thorn in their hearts defeating them in their two past qualifiers. That victory in Huye made sure they regained the confidence of their fans who believe that the team is on the right track on the continent.
The 44-year old whose contract was renewed last September with a two-year deal knows that his team faces an uphill task when they come up against the hosts Algeria, Libya and Mozambique in Group A.