The Black Manager

Can you name at least ten at least 10 black football managers who are in charge of club teams in the top leagues; and by top, we mean Europe.

Chris Hughton (Wiki Commons).

The announcement that Clarence Seedorf will be the new manager of AC Milan in Serie A immediately makes him the highest profile black person managing a top football club right now, right?  AC Milan is a big club–they have won the European Champions League seven times– so this is a big deal. No other black manager has come close to the heights Seedorf has achieved here, except Frank Rijkaard at Barcelona (2003-2008). So, we wondered whether we could make a list of at least 10 black managers who were in charge of club teams in the top leagues (and by this we mean Europe). We could only come up with six others.  If we missed anyone, let us know, but we don’t have high hopes.

Frank Rijkaard. After a storied playing career that included Ajax and AC Milan, he coached the Dutch national team and Sparta Rotterdam (the other team in Netherlands’ second city), before he was named FC Barcelona manager. He stayed for 5 years and after a slow start (after one season he was in danger of being fired), won La Liga (twice), the Spanish Supercup (twice) and the UEFA Champions League (once). He was fired after another embarrassing lost to Real Madrid.

Colombian Francisco Maturana, managed a number of national teams (Peru, Ecuador) including his own country twice (Colombia, with whom he had the most success, winning a South American championship and qualified for the 1994 World Cup). Club-wise his highest point was coaching Atletico Madrid in La Liga for one year. Sadly, his tenure at Atletico Madrid (perceived as the poorer cousins of Real) was uneventful and he went back to South America.

Chris Hughton, the son of a Ghanaian postman, starred at Tottenham Hotspur as a player, before he entered management. He managed Newcastle United (in the Football Championship) but was let go when the team made it to the Premier League. He has had two other spells in the Premier League, with Birmingham City and Norwich City. Right now, he is the only black manager in the Premiership with Norwich.

Born in Bamako, Jean Tigana, a member of the French national team who did not win the World Cup during the 1980s (they should have), later coached at Lyon (where he also played) and Monaco in Ligue 1, before he was hired by Mohamed Al-Fayed to coach Fulham (took them to the UEFA Cup), but was fired (they accused him of paying too much for certain players, he sued and won.) He later went to coach at Besiktas and in China. That was his last job.

Ruud Gullit, one of the best players of his generation (clubs included PSV, AC Milan, Sampdoria and Chelsea) managed Chelsea for a season and a half in the mid to late 1990s before he was sacked. He went on to manage Newcastle United, and for teams in the MLS and  in Russia. Not sure how to interpret this, but Gullit is remembered as the first top flight football manager with dreadlocks.

Fabio Liverani, so far the only “Italo-Somalo” to play for the Azzurri. He played for many clubs in Italy (including a five-year stint at Lazio, a club with a long racist tradition). Last June he was hired as head coach of Genoa but he lasted just seven games in charge and was fired in September.

Finally, there’s Paul Ince, who managed Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League (yes, that’s a big difference from AC Milan and FC Barcelona) for half a season, but in the process became the first black English manager at a Premier League in 2008. Yes, that late in the day.

Further Reading

An unfinished project

Christian theology was appropriated to play an integral role in the justifying apartheid’s racist ideology. Black theologians resisted through a theology of the oppressed.

Writing while black

The film adaptation of Percival Everett’s novel ‘Erasure’ leaves little room to explore Black middle-class complicity in commodifying the traumas of Black working-class lives.

The Mogadishu analogy

In Gaza and Haiti, the specter of another Mogadishu is being raised to alert on-lookers and policymakers of unfolding tragedies. But we have to be careful when making comparisons.

Kwame Nkrumah today

New documents looking at British and American involvement in overthrowing Kwame Nkrumah give us pause to reflect on his legacy, and its resonances today.