New Mali coach Eric Chelle can emulate successful African coaches, says Djimi Traore

1 month ago 348
Mali players celebrate a goal at the Africa Cup of NationsMali exited the Africa Cup of Nations in the last 16 earlier this year, and were then beaten in Africa's World Cup play-offs

New Mali boss Eric Chelle has the potential to emulate other home-grown African coaches, according to former international team-mate Djimi Traore.

Chelle, 44, was picked for the Eagles job last month ahead of former Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr and ex-Cameroon coach Winfried Schafer, two European coaches with vast experience on the continent.

His appointment comes after former Senegal international Aliou Cisse led the Teranga Lions to the Africa Cup of Nations title in February, while Otto Addo and Rigobert Song guided Ghana and Cameroon respectively to qualification for this year's World Cup in Qatar.

"You watch different countries be very successful with ex-players, people [who] know what it means to wear the shirt, to cope with the emotion and cope with the pressure," Traore told BBC Sport Africa.

"Cameroon called up my dear friend, Rigobert Song, and he did the job to beat Algeria and to qualify [for the World Cup].

"When you see Senegal with Aliou Cisse, he is doing a fantastic job. And you can see these ex-players know what they're doing.

"To have someone like Eric Chelle, maybe he can help."

Chelle's first task will be qualifiers for the 2023 Nations Cup, with Mali hosting Congo on Saturday before an 'away' tie against South Sudan in Cairo on Wednesday, 8 June.

Chelle, who won six caps for the Eagles between 2003 and 2006, has only managed in the lower divisions of French football since retiring in 2014.

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

However, former Liverpool and Monaco defender Traore does not think the Mali Football Federation has made a mistake in overlooking Rohr and Schafer.

"I think everyone needs to start somewhere and where Mali are right now, I don't think that it's a gamble," Traore, 42, added.

"Eric is a good man, a very smart guy.

"I think they need to try something different. I will say they need to take their time and have a long-term project, because you can't make a miracle in one or two months.

"To appoint someone like him, I think it's great. I wish him the best."

Malian players 'need exposure at higher level'

Chelle replaced Mohammed Magassouba, whose contract was not renewed after Mali narrowly lost out to Tunisia in the World Cup play-offs in March.

The Eagles had also reached the last 16 at the Nations Cup in Cameroon earlier this year, losing to Equatorial Guinea on penalties.

Traore believes Malian players need to play at a higher level if the West Africans are to win senior continental honours or qualify for the World Cup for the first time.

"You need to be consistent in terms of the players you select and the way you want to play, and the players need to gain a little bit more experience," Traore said.

"Malian players, in my opinion, need to challenge themselves a little bit more - try to play at bigger clubs and play some Champions League football.

"I think right now the group of players from Mali don't have that kind of experience. They have done very well on the youth level. Mali Under-20s has always done well.

"But I would say on the senior level they have room to improve. The only way to gain experience is to go and play big games, because the pressure is so high.

"We have some fantastic young players with big, big potential. I think the future looks bright for Mali - if we do the right things, of course."

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