Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughRemembering Bruno Metsu’s Senegal - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Remembering Bruno Metsu’s Senegal - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Remembering Bruno Metsu’s Senegal

With the burial of Bruno Metsu taking place last week in his adopted Senegal, it provides us with a perfect opportunity reflect on what was his greatest footballing achievement.

After around a decade of managing clubs in France Metsu took up the challenge of international football management. His first foray was with Guinea, which lasted less than a year. From there he took over as coach of Senegal and it is here where he guided the Teranga Lions to the most successful period ever and in the process making himself a national hero in the West African nation.

Prior to his appointment the Senegalese had never been to a World Cup or past the quarter finals at an African Cup of Nations – yet under his leadership not only did they qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, but they went as far the quarter finals, whilst also reaching the final of the 2002 African Nations.

During that period Senegal undoubtedly possessed a talented squad, however it was a side of individuals prior to Metsu’s arrival and further to that several of these individuals were troublesome to manage – for example the likes of El Hadji Diouf and Khaliou Fadiga. As well as that it is worth highlighting that this was a side who were made up virtually entirely of French based players with the majority also coming from sides outside the top clubs, a far cry from the strongest African sides we see these days who can boast so many players from Europe’s top leagues.

Yet Metsu was able to mould them into a cohesive unit and form a strong togetherness within the club. The Frenchman, rather than take a hardline approach, allowed his players the freedom to relax and express themselves outside of training – with this seemingly forming a mutual respect between the group. This method allowed Metsu to become as much of a friendly father figure to his players as he was a coach, which clearly was exactly what the young group needed.

His strengths were without question in his ability to man manage and inspire players. In that famous opening World Cup encounter against France, all in sundry had written off Senegal yet Metsu was able fire up his players to produce one of the great World Cup finals displays – even if the derogatory  comments in the media gave him plenty of fuel for that. It would have been easy to use that material but it was in the manner that Metsu was able to channel it into the performance of his players that so impressive, as Papa Bouba Diop scored the game’s only goal to down the then reigning World Champions. The win over France still remains the greatest achievement to date, such was the scale of it that a national holiday was called back home.

That victory was no flash in the pan either, the Senegalese went on to draw 1-1 with Denmark and 3-3 with Uruguay – albeit having seen an early three goal lead evaporate. If reaching the second round sent them into delirium, what was to follow was even more sensational. In that second round they became only the second side to reach the quarter finals – courtesy of an extra time win over Sweden in which Henri Camara scored twice. The dream journey was finally ended at that stage as their exertions finally took toll in an extra-time defeat to Turkey – but by then their place in history was more than secured.

 Metsu’s reign ended shortly after that following several disputes with the Senegalese FA, however his achievement had already secured his status of one of the greats of Senegal history as a country – let alone just in football terms. In the years that followed nobody was truly able to tame that successful side again – Senegal have failed to reach a World Cup since, whilst the best they can boast in the African Cup of Nations is a fourth place finish in 2006. This was despite them being expected to dominant the continent in the period that followed 2002.

As a knock of their success several players secured big money moves; Diouf and Salif Diao moved to Liverpool, Camara to Wigan, Aliou Cisse to Birmingham and Fadiga to Bolton amongst just a few who saw their careers made in Japan and South Korea – something which Metsu should take a decent amount of credit for. Unfortunately in the majority of those cases the players struggled to reach the peaks of that glorious month – again highlighting Metsu’s wonderful job in gelling them into such a side.

As for Metsu the rest of his managerial career was a little more low key, with him taking several jobs in the Middle East between 2002 and 2012. During that time he applied for both the France and Senegal jobs, you can only wonder how his relaxed approached might have helped what has turned out to be a more than troublesome group of French players – although when he applied 2004 they were not the strugglers they are today. It’s difficult to gauge how a return with the Teranga Lions might have gone down, after all the current side is very different to that of his reign, further to that it has probably for the best that his legendary reputation was not put at stake. Further to that in the space and time of his two years in charge his approach was exactly what was needed to give a young side the direction it had been lacking, it really was a perfect match – given the impact it had on Metsu as a person.

Metsu will go down as an icon in both African and Senegalese football and one of the games great motivators. It is easy to tell your players the right things but what is the challenge is getting them to take your message on board – something which during his spell with Senegal Metsu was a master of. Senegal undoubtedly had a huge impact on the man dubbed the White Sorcerer, he later converted to Islam following marriage to a Senegalese women, whilst his funeral taking place in Dakar – Metsu is and always will be very much seen in Senegal as one their own.