By Edmund Okai Gyimah
It is an old African expression and a mantra trotted out whenever events take a turn for the worse for one of the several teams named after the king of the jungle, be they the Moroccan Atlas Lions who also faltered badly in the just ended AFCON or the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon or Senegal’s Lions of Teranga who moved from AFCON contenders to AFCON pretenders, In the latter’s case their poor showing during the African Cup of Nations has still left majority in awe.
Quarter –finalists at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea where they progressed as far as any other African team, Senegal seemed at that time destined to become one of the continent’s major powers. Since then, a string of disappointing performance have worn their claws down, with those displays both a symptom and cause of increasingly testing conditions within La Taniere (The Den), the teams other nickname and the abysmal performance at the 28th African Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea was no exception.
Now, a decade after their excellent showing on the world stage and on the continent as well, the big cats have become relative kittens, failing to qualify for three successive Fifa World Cup’s as well as failing to build on their African Cup of Nation’s 2nd placed success in Mali in 2002.
The sides exit in the first round of the Gabon/Equatorial Guinea African Cup of Nations where they failed to even pick a point and were last in a modest group comprising of Equatorial Guinea, Libya and Zambia marked a low point for Senegal who had prior to the tournament being tagged as the favourites to lift the converted trophy.
Coach Amara Traore might probably be history just like other coaches such as Guy Stephan, Ablaye Sarr, Henryk Kasperczak, Lamine N’Diaye, and Amsata Fall who all now forms a growing succession of Senegalese National team coaches who lost their jobs after poor results.
Certainly, it will take a coaching genius cast in the mood of their 2002 coach Bruno Metsu to restore some optimism amongst the country’s 13 million inhabitants but back-biting within the Senegalese Football Association, dressing room disputes and administrative problems which still lingers bright as day light in the corridors of the Senegalese FA makes it clear that the poor trend will continue.
“Amara Traore and the FA Guys used the qualifying victory over Cameroon to launch the Teranga Lions as a side to reckon with on the continent without doing a reality check to see the true capacity of the team , this team is weak and does not worth the big names pundits gave to it, I predicted the failure of Senegal at the 2012 African Cup of Nations and it came true. The FA is jealous of we the 2002 generation and does want to involve us in the team” this words of former Senegalese skipper El Hadji Diouf sums it all.
Boasting of a fearsome squad on paper which included Newcastle duo of Demba Ba and Papis Demba Cisse, Mamadou Niang and Moussa Sow who were all scoring goals for fun in their respective leagues, Senegal were among the favourites but the other departments of the game was very porous as Amara Traore decided to experiment by putting square pegs in round holes and the end results saw Senegal crashing out of the tourney.
Very soon, qualifiers for the Brazil 2014 World Cup will begin and aside solving the administrative problems, any coach who leads Senegal should make it a point to beef up other positions in the game aside the striking role with new players.
Former Manchester United winger Mame Biram Diouf who now plays in the German Bundesliga should be part of the team whilst others such as Amand Traore of Queens Park Rangers, Abdoulaye Diagne-Faye of Stoke City, and Pape Diakhate should also be given more playing time.
Moreover the Senegalese Football Association should also look at the “Clairefontaine” in France as there are lots of Senegalese youngsters there, this was the place where the likes of Moussa Sow,Demba Ba and others shaped their football career.
As a matter of fact , it is tilted but it is not yet down and if Senegal are able to do the right thing both administratively and in the technical aspect, with the quality they possess, there is no way the Lions of Teranga cannot roar back to the summit of African Football and also make an impact in the world stage again.
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