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Meet Herve Renard, the French coach dominating African football

Thursday 26th January 2017
The impact of French managers on African football can never be over emphasised. From the days of Claude Leroy, Pierre Lechantre, Philippe Troussier and even Henri Michel, it is a proven fact that French tacticians thrive excellently on the continent. But none can compare to the exploits of current Morocco coach, Herve Renard.

Since the 60's, stats show that over 50 French managers have been employed as national team coaches in Africa, some of them drawing on their charisma and expertise to work genuine wonders, while others have slipped back into anonymity after brief and unsuccessful spells in charge. Notably, is the fact that four sides competing at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations are coached by Frenchmen. However, just four have managed to clinch the tournament and only one has done that twice with two different teams - he is 48-year-old Renard.

So who is the man Herve Renard?

Having a first glimpse at Herve Renard, one could understandably mistake the charismatic tactician for a model due to his elegant dress sense.  Crisp, well-tailored, he is recognised for his attire - always the same shirt - on the touchlines of the AFCON.

"Truth is, I have so many white shirts and jeans. Just look properly," the Frenchman said in 2013. "They seem the same but they really are anything but that. And there is no superstitious story behind my preference in clothes. Journalists only create those."

Obviously, there's definitely more to the Aix-Les-Bains-born manager than his lucky white shirt. His tactical artistry and calmness have seen him become one of the most successful and sort after coaches on the continent.

Playing career

Renard endured an uneventful playing career which spanned almost two decades. He started as a defender with AS Cannes which presently is in the sixth tier of French football before moving to Stade de Vallauris and SC Draguignan. His not-too-impressive portfolio meant he never got a look to play for his country at senior level.

He said: “I played for the French national U17 team with Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps, usually at centre-back or in central midfield. I featured once in the French Championnat for AS Cannes, the club in whose academy I played alongside Zidane."

Rise to stardom

Renard is certainly seeking the fame and fortune that eluded him during a modest playing career. He first tried his hands on management in 1999 immediately after his retirement with former club, Draguignan. After stints in Asia, England with Cambridge United and France, Renard finally got his first major breakthrough with the Zambian national team in 2008. He led the Chipolopolo to the quarter-finals of the AFCON before taking charge of Algerian club, USM Algiers, and later Angola national team.

AFCON success

Renard returned to Zambia in 2011 and one-year later helped the South African nation to their first continental success. He repeated the same feat with Cote d'Ivoire in 2015 - ending the Elephants 25-year title drought.

Club coaching career

Renard's exploits in Africa expectedly triggered top European sides but sadly the 48-year-old hasn't been able to replicate that feat outside the continent. In 2014, he left French side, Sochaux, after they were relegated from the Ligue 1. Two years later, he was sacked as coach of Lille after picking up only 13 points from 13 league games.

Mission with Morocco

Renard is on course to become only the third coach to win the AFCON thrice - the others are Ghana's Charles Gyamfi and Hassan Shehata of Egypt. He is also on a mission to win Morocco's first continental title in over 40 years. The Atlas Lions qualified for the quarter-finals as runner-up in Group B with six points - one behind DR Congo. They progressed at the expense of Renard's former team, Cote d'Ivoire, who are the tournament's defending champions. However, as expected, Renard is refusing to get carried away.

"I was very lucky to work with Ivory Coast and we share the same spirit. But now I have to continue and try to take Morocco far," he said. "We are not favourites to win the tournament, there are better teams than us. But we are still in it. It is s similar situation to the last Nations Cup, and so I hope history can repeat itself."
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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