Togo’s football fans are still reeling from the country’s national team, the Sparrow Hawks’ failure to qualify in the upcoming African Cup of Nations (AFCON), blaming the teams’ poor performance on the coach.
Carrying banners and chanting “Claude Le Roy resign”, dozens of fans took to the streets in Togo’s capital Lome on Saturday (April 6), calling for the removal of the squad’s French coach, Claude Le Roy.
“It’s time for Africa to stop hiring these expatriate coaches, who come and are paid exorbitant salaries but in the end do not produce any results. Why not have faith in African coaches, who are competent, who are efficient and who want to do more than what the expatriate coaches are doing?” said protest organizer, Pasteur Edoh Komi.
Togo lost out to neighbouring Benin 2-1 in the final round of qualifiers last month, leaving Benin to secure its place at the Nations Cup for the first time since 2010.
Le Roy’s appointment in 2016 had raised hopes that he would revitalise the struggling Sparrow Hawks.
Le Roy’s contract officially ended on April 6th, but Togo’s Football Federation has yet to say to officially state Leroy’s future with the team.
Last month, Le Roy said that he would also honour his contract’s terms and leave if his team failed to qualify for the Nations Cup.
“If we don’t qualify, then it will be the end of my journey in Togo, because it will be the end of my contract. Logically, that’s not even up for discussion. But I hope (by the time I leave) we will have built something and brought in a lot of young players to play at the international level,” he said.
Sparrow Hawks were once seen as one of Africa’s top teams but have struggled in recent years due to poor management.
In 2013, Togo reached the Nations Cup quarter finals for the first time but were eliminated in the Group stages during the Nations Cup in 2017.
Sports analysts say they see the current situation as a culmination of deep rooted problems within Togo’s football management that have contributed significantly to the squad’s deteriorating performance.
“Togo has so far participated in four AFCON tournaments, but has lost out in four other tournaments. We always participate in every AFCON. Is it that the problem lies with the coaches? Every time, we say that the fault lies with the coaches, we always say that coaches must be fired, which we do but the result remains the same. Today, we are here calling for Claude Le Roy to be removed. From 2006 up to today, Togo has had 13 coaches changed, which has not resolved anything,” said sports analyst, Herbert Awoudji.
Twenty-four teams will be participating in this year’s edition of the Biennial tournament, to be held in Egypt from June 21 to July 19.
Noel Tadegnon and Lisa Ntungicimpaye