Coaching casualties hit Ghana and Gambia in wake of disappointing performances

AFCON 2023 Coaching casualties hit Ghana and Gambia in wake of disappointing performances

Festus Chuma 10:30 - 24.01.2024

Ghana's coach sacked, Gambia's coach resigns following underwhelming AFCON group-stage performances.

Four-time African champions Ghana have parted ways with coach Chris Hughton following their group-stage exit in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

The Black Stars' disappointing campaign saw them finish with just two points in Group B, drawing 2-2 with Egypt and Mozambique, and suffering a 2-1 defeat to Cape Verde.

As hopes of progressing dimmed, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) swiftly took action, relieving Hughton of his duties and dissolving the entire technical team of the Black Stars.

Hughton, who took the reins as Ghana's head coach in February last year, faced challenges from the outset.

The decision to replace Otto Addo after the 2022 World Cup did not yield the desired results, with Ghana finishing at the bottom of their group.

Despite a show of support from the GFA following a fan altercation, Hughton's fate was sealed as the Black Stars were eliminated from the tournament on Tuesday.

The GFA, in a statement, announced, "Chris Hughton has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect," promising to provide a roadmap for the future direction of the Black Stars in the coming days.

The 65-year-old former Newcastle United and Brighton boss had initially been brought in as a technical adviser before assuming the head coach role.

The hopes of Ghana making it to the last 16 seemed promising as they held a 2-0 lead over Mozambique in their final group game. However, an unexpected turn of events saw the Mambas score twice in second-half stoppage time, securing a draw that sent the Ghanaians packing.

The disappointing group-stage exit marked Ghana's third consecutive underwhelming performance after the 2021 AFCON and the 2022 World Cup.

In a parallel development, Gambia's coach Tom Saintfiet decided to step down just minutes after his team's elimination from the AFCON.

Despite a commendable effort to secure a place in the last 16 at the expense of five-time winners Cameroon, the 50-year-old Belgian cited the impending expiration of his contract in August as the reason for his immediate departure.

Saintfiet's tenure with Gambia had been his most successful among his ten national team coaching positions. He led the small West African country to their first Cup of Nations appearance in Cameroon two years ago and orchestrated a remarkable run to the quarter-finals.

However, Gambia's fate took a different turn this year as they lost all three Group C matches, culminating in a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to Cameroon despite holding a 2-1 lead with just five minutes to play.

Having started his national team coaching career with Namibia in 2008, Saintfiet went on to coach Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Yemen, Malawi, Togo, Bangladesh, Trinidad & Tobago, and Malta before landing in Gambia.

His departure adds another layer of intrigue to the unfolding drama at the 2023 AFCON, leaving both Ghana and Gambia in search of new leadership as they contemplate their future on the African football stage. 

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