Francois Zahoui comments on announcing the Ivorian squad

Francois Zahoui, coach of Ivory Coast, speaking this morning at the pre-preperation camp training…

“When are at the head of a selection like this there’s a real expectation. Since 1992 it’s been twenty years! It’s normal – with the Ivory Coast team, we have a beautiful team with famous players that are at major clubs and people don’t understand that we aren’t achieving great things as a national team. We try – me and other coaches – we’ve gone to hire the very best! So, I understand – I’m Ivorian – when the national team play I’m the number one supporter of the team. Before being the coach I’m a supporter first of all.  I know the expectation there is. When I’m back in the village, when I go in the street, I know what people are waiting for. And I’m happy that even the head of state talked about this in his new year’s address. When you’re a competitor you go with an objective. We were received at state house and our objective now is to in win the cup. For us there’s not an impossible pressure – it’s part of the challenge of a competitor to try and get the trophy. One of my colleagues asked me “Francois, doesn’t it get to you?” And I said in your village when people need water and you are told to go and get water so people drink – if you head off shaking with fear you’ll break the water container. I’m happy to be an Ivorian and to carry this flag and know that people are hoping for the cup.

I sleep well and I say to the players to respect our opponents. In Ivory Coast we’ve got a big problem – we don’t respect our opponents! When we go to a Cup of Nations people say ‘oh no, this team aren’t there, this team aren’t there’ and teach team people are disappointed because we go as the super-favourite and then come back disappointed. So I try not to speak too much. We know at the federation that it will be a Cup of Nations that will be very difficult and we know what we need to do. Our objective is to come back with the trophy by being the most unified possible with a shared-vision. It’s not a pressure – it’s part of our African passion to sing and push. I think it’s a part of saying to the players – do your best because people have put their hope in you. That’s how I see things and I think that’s the way the players see it as well.”

“I’ve been to England twice recently. You know that the national team in Ivory Coast is led by people who are well educated and I was surprised that people in England think that we don’t know the FIFA rules about dates. Here, when we call-up the players, they are obliged to turn up at the FIFA date indicated by FIFA. So when we call them up we know that the clubs need to let them go. If there are clubs that want to play-up, well, the federation and its president Sidy Diallo…we told the players in Paris after the South Africa friendly that we wouldn’t tolerate clubs that want the players to stay longer at their club. We asked all the players to turn-up on the day of the call-up. So afterwards, it’s a matter for the federation and the club. If a club manager, whatever his status, wants to play difficult – first of all he’ll lose a match, if they keep the player beyond the FIFA date. After – it’s their choice – I respect their choice. I went to London, I saw Roberto Mancini and we talked. I talked with Arsene Wenger. It’s normal that when you have a player like Gervinho, who’s a key player, it’s normal that with all that the players bring to their clubs that the managers want their major players. I understand. But I said to the managers ‘be careful because there’s a great expectation here and we need our cohesion and we have our 10 days together and we need a team spirit at our training camp’. So I said ‘be careful’ and that we wouldn’t tolerate any misconduct. Arsene Wenger was my coach so we have a close, respectful relationship – he was my coach for three years! So we know each other. But even with him I said that the head of the Ivorian federation won’t mess about. Don’t turn this into a stand-off. So our call-up day is the 7th January. I hope and pray that they respect this date and that there’s not a conflict between clubs and the federation.”

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