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Antoine Kombouaré's firing by Paris Saint-Germain proves the lack of job security for black coaches in soccer

Antoine Kombouaré's firing by Paris Saint-Germain proves the lack of job security for black coaches in soccer


Kombouaré's firing coupled with Chris Hughton and Denis Hamlett's firings in the past proves that there is no job security for black coaches in soccer.

Despite being in first place in Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain decided to shamelessly dismiss head coach Antoine Kombouaré to bring in a bigger name.

While Carlo Ancelotti is a blue-chip hiring at the manager position, the club's move points to a bleak reality in soccer's coaching ranks: Job security for black managers does not exist.


It was only a year ago that another black head coach, Chris Hughton, was dismissed from Newcastle without a reasonable cause despite having a successful spell with the club. 

All Hughton accomplished was bringing back the historic club to Premier League after it hit rock bottom in 2009 when it was relegated as well as helping cultivate youngsters such as Andy Carroll (from whom the club collected 35 million pounds in a transfer to Liverpool). Newcastle sat comfortably in midtable after its promotion to the Premier League but that still wasn't good enough for owner Mike Ashley. Hughton was replaced by Alan Pardew in December.

Sound familiar?

Lost in inevitable hoopla that will likely take place following Ancelotti and the big-name transfers that will surely follow is the fact that Kombouaré was on his way to leading PSG to its first domestic title since 1994. In two years under Kombouaré the team had always overachieved. In 2010, he ended the team's five-year trophy drought by winning the Coupe de France and securing a place in the Europa League. Two years prior to his arrival, the club was almost relegated, finishing in 16th place, three points clear of the relegation zone.  
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Some will point to PSG's current standings as a result of the massive investment in players provided by the Qatari Investment Authority. While it is true that the likes of Javier Pastore, Kevin Gamiero and Diego Lugano improved the squad greatly, last season Kombouare was four points away from leading PSG to the Champions League with a limited budget.

PSG's early exit from the Europa League is seen by many as Kombouaré's ultimate undoing, but the club's main target this season was to win the domestic crown and securing Champions League's qualification. The Europa League is considered a secondary tournament to most teams with big aspirations. In fact, Tottenham's Harry Redknapp rarely played his starters in this year's competition.

Kombouare put his men into position to reach the club's objectives and was falsely under the assumption that if he did, he would keep his job.

"I know the rule," the Paris Saint-Germain coach told reporters prior to the first match of the season. "We win, I stay. We lose, I'm out."

PSG's director Leonardo clearly had other plans and fired the only black coach left in the top flight of any of Europe's top leagues. Yet, this baffling trend isn't exclusive to Europe.

Out of the six African teams that participated in the 2010 World Cup, only Algeria had an African coach, while the rest were led by European coaches. In Major League Soccer, Denis Hamlett was fired as head coach of the Chicago Fire for not winning the MLS Cup in his two years on the job. Hamlett led the team to back-to-back Eastern Conference finals and had a record of 31-23-24 in his two seasons. Chicago hasn't made the playoffs since. Chivas USA's Robin Fraser is the only black head coach currently in MLS.

In a sport where 30 percent of the players are black, it is alarming to see such a paucity of coaches of the same race in the ranks. It is not necessarily true to say in all cases that racism prevents blacks from taking managerial positions but it isn't farfetched to say that black coaches are not as highly regarded as their peers. A perfect example of this is Frank Rijkaard.

While Pep Guardiola continues to gain praise for ushering in a new era at Barcelona, it was his predecessor Rijkaard who laid the foundation of the club's dominant spell. The coach ended the club's 15-year run without a Champions League title, winning in 2006, and won two La Liga titles that ended Real Madrid's grip of the league. 

Rijkaard also gave first team opportunities to Andres Iniesta, Victor Valdes and Lionel Messi, who is now the world's top player.

"I'll never forget the fact that he launched my career, that he had confidence in me while I was only 16 or 17," Messi said reflecting on his former coach.

Not Getting His Due | Many forget the foundation Rijkaard laid for Barcelona

In addition, the Dutchman had a significantly better transfer record than his successor. Under Rijkaard the club signed Samuel Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Deco. Yet, after he was fired due to his team failing to win a trophy in 2008, jobs were not easy to come by. Rijkaard was linked to plenty of top sides in Europe but was forced to settle for Turkish club Galatasaray and the Saudia Arabia national team after bigger clubs refused to offer him a contract. It isn't surprising that few black players express aspirations to manage once their careers are over.

One exception to this is New York Red Bulls star and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. Henry has been pretty open in his desire to one day become a head coach. 

Shortly after the Red Bulls lost to Fraser's Chivas USA in a 3-2 result at home, I asked Henry what he felt about guys like Fraser and Kombouaré considering the French forward is normally outspoken regarding issues of race. Henry paused, looked up for a second and rubbed the back of his head. Then he immediately changed subject to avoid making a risky statement.

After all, opportunities aren't easy to come by, especially being black with aspirations of becoming a soccer coach.