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AFCON 2023: Meet the 24 coaches battling for one trophy

By Vincent Ashitey
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The AFCON 2023 will kick off at Abidjan’s Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara tonight when host nation Cote d'Ivoire takes on Guinea Bissau in a tricky Group A encounter.

With all 24 nations raring to go for Africa’s most treasured football prize, we take a look at the profile of 24 coaches who will be looking to guide their team to AFCON glory.

Meet the head coaches in Group A

Côte d'Ivoire: Jean Louis Gasset (69 years)

Jean Louis Gasset was appointed as the head coach of the Ivorian national team in May 2022, replacing Patrice Beaumelle, whose contract was not renewed after a disappointing CAN campaign in Cameroon, where the Elephants were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Egypt (0-0, 5-4 on penalties). The 69-year-old French tactician bears the heavy responsibility of guiding the host nation in this competition. The mission assigned to him by the Ivorian Football Federation was crystal clear from the outset. "Our goal with Gasset is to win the next CAN, or at least reach the semi-finals; otherwise, his contract will not be renewed for another year," stated Ivorian football chief Idriss Diallo during a press conference in Abidjan.

Despite his first experience leading a national team, Jean Louis Gasset can rely on his extensive coaching background, having managed several French clubs, including Montpellier, Saint-Etienne, and Bordeaux. He also served as an assistant to Laurent Blanc at Bordeaux, with the French national team, and at Paris Saint-Germain. At home, the Elephants, under his guidance, will strive to lift a third continental trophy following their successes in 1992 in Senegal and 2015 in Equatorial Guinea.

Nigeria: José Peseiro (63 years)

José Peseiro has been at the helm of the Nigerian national team since May 2022, taking over from Austin Eguavoen. The 63-year-old Portuguese manager faces the challenging task of leading the Super Eagles in the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2023 in Côte d'Ivoire, where the country aspires to a better performance than the last edition in Cameroon, where they were surprisingly eliminated by Tunisia in the round of 16.

To achieve the goals set by Nigerian football authorities, José Peseiro can draw on his rich experience, having previously served as the head coach of Saudi Arabia (2009-2011) and Venezuela (2020-2021) and managed Portuguese clubs Braga, Porto, and Sporting Portugal. With him, Nigeria aims for a fourth continental crown after triumphs in 1980, 1994, and 2013.

Equatorial Guinea: Juan Micha (48 years)

Confirmed as the head coach of Equatorial Guinea in March 2021 after a five-month interim period, Juan Obiang Micha will lead the Nzalang Nacional at the TotalNEergies CAF AFCON for the second consecutive edition. In the 2021 edition in Cameroon, he achieved a sensational run with his team, reaching the quarterfinals after eliminating Mali in the round of 16 and defeating Algeria in the group stage.

At 48 years old, Juan Michá Obiang Bicogo is a former Equato-Guinean footballer who played for his country in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He began his coaching career at Fuenlabrada in Spain before joining the Equatorial Guinean women's national team as an assistant coach from 2012 to 2014. Before becoming the interim head coach of Equatorial Guinea in late 2020 and subsequently confirmed in March 2021, he also coached the country's U17 and U20 teams, as well as Deportivo Unidad, a club based in Malabo. He aims to surpass the 2015 performance at home, the year of Nzalang Nacional's best-ever finish in the competition (fourth place).

Guinea-Bissau: Baciro Cande (57 years)

Baciro Cande (57 years) has been in charge of the Guinea-Bissau national team since 2016. This year in Côte d'Ivoire, he will lead his country in its fourth TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations. A former defender, he played for Estrela de Amadora and Amara in Portugal before embarking on a coaching career.

This marks his second stint at the helm of Djurtus after an initial tenure between 2001 and 2009. In the meantime, he also coached Sporting Clube de Bissau (2009-2016), leading them to a league title in 2010. In 2023, he undoubtedly aspires to guide his team beyond the first round, a stage they have never surpassed in three previous participations (2017, 2019, 2021).

Meet the Coaches - Group B

Rui Vitória - EGYPT

Born in Portugal, Vitória is heading to his first-ever TotalEnergies CAF AFCON after signing up to be the head coach of Egypt in 2022.

Before joining Egypt, Rui Vitória had a stint with Portuguese giants Benfica, where he won a domestic treble in his first season and went ahead to defend the Portuguese topflight league the following season.

Despite being a new face on the continent, the Portuguese international has what it takes to deliver on a big stage like the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON.

Chris Hughton - GHANA

For over four decades, Ghana has failed to win an AFCON title, and the 34th edition provides another platform for them to end the long drought.

To lead this campaign is the 65-year-old English-born Chris Hughton, who was appointed as the head coach after the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Chris, despite his rich experience in the English Premier League, has never been to the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON before.

The former Tottenham, West Ham, and Brentford player are hoping to write history in Côte d'Ivoire.

Bubista - CAPE VERDE

The Cape Verde National team is led by Bubista.

Bubista was a player for the Cape Verde National team, where he played 28 games as a defender.

The 54-year-old has been in charge of Cape Verde since 2020, and this will be his second AFCON. He qualified for the last edition in Cameroon and finished in the Round of 16.

Cape Verde finds themselves in a much more difficult group with past winners Ghana and Egypt.

Chiquinho Conde - MOZAMBIQUE

Chiquinho is one of the key men in the history of Mozambique football as a player and a coach.

As a player, Chiquinho spent most of his years playing in Portugal for clubs like SC Braga, Sporting Lisbon, among others.

He also appeared in three TotalEnergies CAF AFCON tournaments for Mozambique.

Before his appointment as the head coach for the Mambas, they had failed to qualify for the last six editions of the Africa Cup of Nations but managed to secure qualification for the 2023 edition.

Meet the head coaches in Group C

Senegal: Aliou Cissé (47 years)

Senegalese coach Aliou Cissé is a former Senegalese international who excellently represented the "Lions of Teranga." Known for his defensive rigor, he played a crucial role in the Senegalese defense for many years. Aliou Cissé has participated in the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach. Unfortunate finalist in 2002 against Cameroon in Mali, he finally won the title as a coach in the 2021 edition.

Having played for several French and English clubs, Aliou Cissé ended his playing career in 2009 before transitioning to coaching. In 2012, he became the assistant coach of the Senegalese U-23 team, later becoming the head coach of the same category until 2015. It was in that year that he was appointed head coach of the Senegal national team. In February 2022, he made history by giving Senegal its first-ever TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations trophy. He hopes to retain the title this year in Côte d'Ivoire, possibly as a payback to the Ivorians who took the trophy from Senegal in the 1992 edition.

Cameroon: Rigobert Song (47 years)

The Cameroonian team, one of the perennial favorites with 5 titles, is led by Rigobert Song, who has already shone as a player and captain of the team before transitioning to the sidelines. He won the 2000 and 2002 editions with his country and will experience his first coaching stint in the competition. In his playing career, the 47-year-old coach represented several French, English, and Turkish clubs.
Shortly after being appointed head of the Indomitable Lions, Rigobert Song succeeded in qualifying Cameroon for the last FIFA World Cup in Qatar, eliminating Algeria in the playoffs. He is eager to create another sensation in this Africa Cup of Nations on Ivorian soil.

Guinea: Kaba Diawara (48 years)

The Guinean national football team is led by Kaba Diawara, who initially represented the French U-21 team before joining his country of origin, participating several times in the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations as a player. At the helm of the Guinean selection, he will participate in his second AFCON after the 2021 edition in Cameroon, aspiring to etch his name in history.
As a player, Kaba Diawara distinguished himself with various French and English clubs, including Paris Saint-Germain, Olympique de Marseille, Arsenal, and West Ham. He also played in Turkey before ending his playing career in 2009. Kaba Diawara has been directing the Guinean team since October 2021. The last Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon was his first significant experience as a football coach.

Gambia: Tom Saintfiet (51 years)

Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet is one of the best non-African coaches in Africa, with extensive experience leading several African clubs and national teams.

Tom Saintfiet had a brief playing career before hanging up his boots at the age of 24. His coaching career began in Belgium, but he quickly embarked on a journey across the African continent, coaching several clubs and national teams, including Malawi, Togo, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.

The Belgian coach relies on his vast experience and perfect understanding of African football to make an impact with the Gambian team, which already surprised as quarter-finalists in the 2021 edition in Cameroon.


Meet the Coaches - Group D

Djamel Belmadi - Algeria

For the third successive time, Djamel Belmadi will be leading Algeria to a TotalEnergies CAF AFCON tournament.

He managed to end the country of his birth’s 29-year wait for an AFCON trophy in 2019 when he guided them to victory.

Belmadi made 20 appearances for the Algerian national team from 2000 to 2004 and played his club football for French giant Olympic Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain.

Though a tough one, Algeria is one of the favorites to win the trophy in Côte d'Ivoire.

Hubert Velud - Burkina Faso

Born in France, Velud played as a goalkeeper for Stade de Reims. He hung his boots in 1990 and became a manager.

He has vast experience on the Africa continent at the club level. He has managed ES Sètif, USM Algiers TP Mazembe in 2012, 2013, and 2016, respectively.

In 2010, he led the Togolese national team to the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON.

Sixteen years on, Velud has another opportunity to play in the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON, this time with Burkina Faso, and they are in a group they can manage and progress.

Amir Abdou - Mauritania

The Mauritanian national team will be coached by Amir Abdou, who hails from Comoros.

Amir spent eight years coaching the Comoros national team, where he managed to qualify them for their first Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon in 2021.

After guiding Mauritania to what is their third consecutive qualification for the finals of the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON, a knockout stage qualification will be in sight for Amir Abdou.

Pedro Gonçalves - Angola

Born in Angola, Pedro Gonçalves has passed through the ranks as a coach for the various Angolan national teams.

He started with the Angolan U-17 team in 2018 after stints with 1º de Agosto. He won the Cosafa Cup and also qualified them for their first-ever U-17 FIFA World Cup in 2019.

This led to his appointment as the head coach of the U-20 and U-23 national teams before getting the nod as the head coach of the national team in 2019.

He qualified for the CHAN tournament in 2022 and finished second in his group.

Gonçalves capped what has been a top performance so far with Angola with TotalEnergies CAF AFCON qualification in 2023.

Meet the head coaches in Group E



Tunisia - Jalel Kadri (52)

Jalel Kadri temporarily took over the Tunisian coaching reins during the TotalEnergies AFCON 2021 in Cameroon after the then head coach Mondher Kebaier, contracted Covid-19 just days before Tunisia’s Round of 16 tie against Nigeria, which he guided the team to a 1-0 victory over the three-time champions. 

Despite bowing out of the 2021 edition in the quarter-finals against Burkina Faso, Kadri managed to qualify the team to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and will be looking to draw from both experiences when leading his side in Cote d’Ivoire.

Mali – Eric Chelle (46)

Born in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire 46 years ago, Eric Chelle will be competing in his first-ever TotalEnergies AFCON as a manager in his native country. 

Following an incredibly successful playing career in France which includes stints with Valenciennes and Racing Club de Lens, Chelle shifted focus to the tactics board and had his first coaching assignment in 2016 with French club, GS Consolat. 

In May 2022, the former defender was appointed head coach of Mali and will have the tough assignment of leading the Eagles in Cote d’Ivoire. 

South Africa – Hugo Broos (71)

Guided Cameroon to their fifth TotalEnergies AFCON title in 2017, coach Hugo Broos will be on the helm of a South African side that is desperate for continental success, having last won the title back in 1996. 

Undoubtedly, the team has seen a great improvement since the taking over of the Belgian tactician who will be leading them to their 11th TotalEnergies AFCON appearance after last making an appearance in Egypt during the 2019 edition. 

A fan of blending youth and experience in his squads, Broos will be looking at replicating his 2017 success with a young generation of Bafana Bafana.

Namibia – Collin Benjamin (45)

Namibia is preparing to make their fourth TotalEnergies AFCON appearance and are yet to make it beyond the group stages of the competition. Comfortably carrying the underdogs tag, under Collin Benjamin, the Brave Warriors have one of Africa’s most astute coaches who is looking at making a name for himself following a successful playing career in Germany. 

At 45, Benjamin is the youngest coach in the group and will be looking to outsmart his more experienced counterparts during the group stages and make history for his nation by going past the group stages.  

Meet the head coaches in Group F

Avram Grant (69 years)

He made a name for himself during his time in the English Premier League at Chelsea, reaching the final of the 2008 UEFA Champions League. However, on the continent, Avram Grant's first challenge was Ghana, where he led from 2014 to 2017. He managed to take the Black Stars to the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON final in 2015 against Côte d'Ivoire (lost on penalties 8-9, 0-0 after extra time). Having been at the helm of Zambia for a year now, the Israeli Grant revitalizes Chipolopolo, aiming to recreate the feat of winning the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON finals in 2012.

Sébastien Desabre (48 years)

The French technician is a seasoned traveler of the continent. His first appearance dates back to 2010 with ASEC Mimosas in Côte d'Ivoire. Since then, he has managed numerous clubs in Tunisia, Angola, Algeria, Cameroon, Morocco, and Egypt. Sébastien Desabre qualified Uganda for its first TotalEnergies CAF AFCON in over 30 years in 2019 in Egypt, achieving a historic place in the round of 16 (eliminated by Senegal). Despite being dismissed after the competition, his journey earns him a rebound with the Leopards of the DR Congo for the past two years. Renowned for his tactical prowess, Desabre is a leader of men, precisely what the Leopards need to restore their reputation.

Adel Amrouche (56 years)

Since his debut as a coach on the continent, moving through Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Libya, and Botswana, Adel Amrouche has never had the opportunity to participate in the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON. This will now be the chance in Côte d'Ivoire for the Belgian-Algerian coach with Tanzania, where he joined in March 2023. Amrouche can rely on a group of players whose potential has been evolving over the years, symbolized by Taifa Stars' star, Mbwana Samatta.

Walid Regragui (49 years)

For his first experience as the coach of a national team, Walid Regragui made a strong impact by guiding Morocco to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Qatar. Since then, expectations have been high around the former Atlas Lion. However, Regragui remains level-headed. He has a quality squad and ensures that his message resonates well. For his second TotalEnergies CAF AFCON with Morocco, Regragui has only one ambition: to go as far as possible and lay hands on the trophy.