Eric Chelle: New Mali coach ready for challenge

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Mali players ahead of the home leg of their World Cup qualifying play-off against TunisiaMali were beaten 1-0 on aggregate by Tunisia in Africa's 2022 World Cup play-offs in March

Former international defender Eric Sekou Chelle is ready for the task of revitalising Mali after being named their new coach over the weekend.

The 44-year-old replaces Mohammed Magassouba, whose contract was not renewed after Mali narrowly lost out to Tunisia in the World Cup qualification play-offs in March.

Chelle, who has only managed in the lower divisions of French football since retiring in 2014, faces a huge step up after he was picked ahead of former Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr and ex-Cameroon coach Winfried Schafer.

"I believe I have the experience to meet this new challenge," said Chelle.

"I came with a strong desire to give back to my country and I honestly felt the opportunity was too good to pass up. It is definitely a big challenge and I do like to challenge myself."

Chelle, born in the Ivory Coast, played his entire professional career in France and won six caps for Mali between 2003 and 2006.

He previously worked as youth coach at Marseille Consolat, before coaching spells at Martigues and Boulogne in the French lower divisions.

His immediate task will be to get Mali to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Ivory Coast.

Runners up in the 1972 tournament, the Eagles will face Congo, South Sudan and The Gambia in Group G.

He will have little time to prepare for the start of the Nations Cup qualifiers, where Mali host Congo in Bamako on 4 June in their opening group game and against South Sudan in Cairo four days later.

The West Africans have also announced a friendly in the United States against World Cup-bound Ecuador on 11 June at the Pratt & Whitney Stadium in Hartford, Connecticut.

Eric Chelle in action for ValenciennesEric Chelle, pictured in 2007, played for French clubs Martigues, Valenciennes, Lens, Istres and Chamois Niortais
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