July 17, 2019 by admin
Rarely have any returned home to coach a leading club but it is on the back of taking Zambia to the 2012 African Nations Cup title that Renard is suddenly catapulted from overseas exile into the coaching hot seat at Sochaux.
They sit second bottom of the standings and have taken a gamble in a bid to get out of their current quagmire – hiring a coach who might be local but is in many ways foreign to the French league.
The move back home comes with fortuitous timing as his contract at Zambia had just months to run with the country already eliminated from the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Among his last jobs in France was running a garbage collection company, cleaning empty offices at night and dreaming of a chance to make a career in football.
When he realised as a teenager he was never going to make the grade as a top professional player, Renard coached at amateur level but never got a chance with a top division team.
“I am not in the who’s who,” he told Reuters in an interview two years ago on the eve of the victorious Nations Cup final.
“I took out the rubbish for eight years and now I’m about to coach in the African Nations Cup final. Football is magical right?”
A chance encounter with Claude Le Roy, another Frenchman better known in Africa, saw him offered the opportunity to be his assistant in China, at Cambridge United in the fourth tier of English football and with Ghana’s national team.
Renard’s first solo job was in the anonymity of club football in Vietnam but his break came when Le Roy recommended him to Zambia.
He became their national coach in 2008 and took them to the Nations Cup quarter-finals in the tournament in Angola two years later.
They were bundled out in a penalty shootout by Nigeria but Renard got a lucrative offer to stay on as Angola coach.
That proved a brief and disappointing tenure but he bounced back in Algeria at top club USM Alger and had no hesitation when Zambia asked him to return in late 2011.
Months later they were African champions and Renard an international figure, his chiselled good looks and trademark tight white shirt marking him out.
“I always had Ligue 1 as an objective,” he told reporters as he prepared this week for his first game at home to table-topping Monaco on Sunday.
“But I’m not a magician, I can only offer hard work,” he told France Football magazine.
His progress will be closely watched by a posse of expatriate coaches around the developing world with similar ambitious of returning home in glory, as well as many admirers across Africa.
His mentor Le Roy had a similar chance at Paris St Germain but his stay was all too brief.
Philippe Troussier, who made his name in West Africa as the “white witch doctor” and took Japan to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2002, went home to a surprise post at Olympique Marseille in 2004 but lasted a half-season and has not had a major post since.
(Additional reporting by André Assier; Editing by John O’Brien)
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