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 By Mark Gleeson

Gabon's sacking of Jorge Costa is history repeating itself in Africa

Gabon's coach head Jorge Costa makes a point from the sideline during their African Cup of Nations Group A soccer match against Equatorial Guinea in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015.
Gabon sacked Jorge Costa just months before the African Nations Cup, a surprisingly common move from African federations.

The firing of Jorge Costa by Gabon just 70 days before they host the African Nations Cup continues a sorry tale of panicked and knee-jerk decision making by African football federations. Changing the coach so near to a major event is nothing new to the continent. But, sadly, it has rarely produced the desired results and on most occasions achieved little more than highlighting the foolhardiness of trigger-happy officials.

Gabon's new coach will be Jose Antonio Garrido, who does have some insider knowledge. The former Benfica player has been in the country since mid-year as the technical director of the federation but is still thrown into the deep end this weekend when Gabon play away against Mali in a World Cup qualifier.

There is no guarantee that should it turn out a negative result in Bamako on Saturday, he won't also be packed off. Costa, the former Portugal international who once had a brief spell at Charlton Athletic in his playing days, had been treading on thin ice for a while. Gabon seemed to hesitate over to renewing his contract when it ran out in mid-year and when they did so, it was only for six more months . Gabon were disappointing at the last finals, hosted in neighbouring Equatorial Guinea, and since have bumbled along without much impact, even though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was named African Footballer of the Year for 2015, the first Gabonese player to win that award.

Heading towards January's Africa Nations Cup kick off, Gabon had won just once in their last nine outings. But the merits of removing the coach so soon to the finals are hardly obvious. It did work once, in the case of Ghana in 1992. Burkhard Ziese did much to restore the Black Stars to their former glory and qualified them for the Nations Cup tournament in Senegal. But he was removed in the months before the event in favour of his compatriot Otto Pfister after the silver-haired German had returned from Italy with the Under-17 World Cup title ... the first world title for Ghana.

Pfister, with just weeks to work with the senior side, took Ghana's Black Stars to the final, where they lost on penalties after having their talisman Abedi Pele ruled out of the decider because of suspension. What used to trip up coaches previously was the timing of the Nations Cup finals, six months before the World Cup. Nigeria, South African and Tunisia all changed coaches after the 2002 Nations Cup finals in Mali, which was held less than five months before the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Togo's German coach Otto Pfister, left, urges his players as Richmond Forson preares to throw in a ball during the Germany 2006 Soccer World Cup, Group G, soccer match between Togo and Switzerland at Dortmund's stadium, Germany, Monday, June 19, 2006. Swi
No man reflects the managerial merry-go-round in Africa like Otto Pfister, who's managed eight different African nations.

Tunisia fired Henri Michel after they failed to get past the first round while South Africa got rid of Carlos Queiroz even though they made it to the quarter-finals. Shaibu Amodu led Nigeria to third place at the 2002 Nations Cup but the achievement was not deemed sufficient and he was sacked, to be replaced by the aging Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, who was working in the association's technical department at the time.

Amodu, subsequently brought back as coach, would have known what was coming eight years later at the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola when Nigeria went out in the semifinals again. He got the chop soon thereafter and Lars Lagerback took the Super Eagles to the World Cup in South Africa (.

Stephen Keshi performed heroics in qualifying Togo for the 2006 World Cup in Germany but after a falling out with star striker Emmanuel Adebayor was removed from his post. Otto Pfister was given the job with just a handful of games to prepare but made no impact.

Sven-Goran Eriksson was parachuted in by the Ivory Coast after they booted Vahid Halilhodzic after a disappointing 2010 Nations Cup. Eriksson had just two months to prepare yet made some bold tactical switches for the World Cup in South Africa, though the Ivorians did not make it past the first round.

The quickest turnover for a coach ahead of a major tournament came just four years ago. Frenchman Henri Michel quit the job as Equatorial Guinea coach - the last of a myriad of appointments on the continent - some three weeks before the small oil-rich nation co-hosted the 2012 Nations Cup, claiming a litany of broken promises about "working conditions".

His successor literally had two weeks in the job before the tournament started - a thankless task in which Brazilian Gilson Paulo had little chance in succeeding.

Mark Gleeson covers African football for ESPN FC.


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