Former Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac’s latest gig is an opportunity to prove a huge point for himself and for a fair few others
By: Sammie Frimpong
Coaching Ghana may not be a badge many managers would wish to carry around as the brightest spot in their careers but, for some, it’s only marked the start of great things.
Take, for instance, Carlos Alberto Parreira, the legendary Brazilian tactician. His first major coaching assignment, picked up in 1967, was at the helm of the Black Stars. He’d go on to, among other feats, guide his nation on three distinct occasions, winning a Fifa World Cup, the Copa America and the Fifa Confederations Cup.
Not so in the case of the last five expatriates (prior to current boss Avram Grant’s advent) to handle Ghana: Goran Stevanovic, Milovan Rajevac, Ratomir Dujkovic, Mariano Barreto and Ralf Zumdick.
After enjoying varied degrees of success this side of the Atlantic, none of these have ever quite hit the heights they reached while with Ghana. They’ve since coached just four senior national teams — Syria (Dujkovic), Ethiopia (Barreto), Qatar and Algeria (Rajevac) — between them, most of them low-profile.
The remainder have been even less glamorous. Zumdick, since his departure in 2003, has settled for assistant coaching roles which have taken him from Germany to Turkey, Iran and now Hungary — clearly a downward spiral.
The bespectacled German’s successor, India-born Barreto, whose one-year stint with Ghana was his first real gig in management, has also been all over the place, pitching tent in Portugal, Russia, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Angola and Lithuania. And then there is Dujkovic who, in addition to his aforementioned post in the Middle East, has only tried his hands — with little success — at handling youth national teams, namely, those of China and his native Serbia. The other two Serbians on this list, Rajevac and Stevanovic, have had clubs in Saudi Arabia and Slovenia, Greece and China, respectively.
Put simply, these guys haven’t been nearly as successful as they were when in charge of the Stars, and none of them appears likely to rise any higher anytime soon. It’s almost grown into a hex, if it isn’t already. All that might soon change, however, if Rajevac’s determination to succeed with the Algerian national side — certainly the biggest job any former coach of Ghana has landed in recent memory — is anything to go by. The 62-year-old’s services were engaged by the North African country late last month and he is tasked with making the continent’s top-ranked side good enough to succeed in the quest to make its dominance count at next year’s Nations Cup and qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup.
Rajevac’s confidence will be boosted by the fact that, with Ghana, he proved his worth on the continental and global stages, reaching the 2010 Afcon finals and nearly guiding the Stars to a historic semi-final ticket at the Mundial later that year. Indeed, when predicting his chances of achieving said goals as head of the Desert Foxes’ technical bench, Rajevac couldn’t resist the temptation to make Ghana — unarguably his greatest success story yet — a sterling reference point.
“With Ghana, we qualified for the World Cup after just four matches, in which we scored seven goals and didn’t concede any,” Rajevac told Fifa.com.
“I’m going to try and take the Algeria team forward in every area so that we can reach the same level. My personal objective is to do better than I managed with Ghana and get beyond the quarter-finals [of the World Cup].”
Reaching the event itself, would be herculean, with Rajevac required to navigate passage from a group which also includes fellow African powerhouses Nigeria and Cameroon — doubtlessly the tightest pool in the African qualifying race.
His mission, though ultimately to prove he’s more than just a flash in the pan, would go a long way in showing that there is, after all, quality managerial life at the highest level for Grant any future Ghana coach.
Your move, ‘Milo’.