Qatar 2022: Why African Fans Are Calling Saudi’s Coach, Hervé Renard, An "African Legend"

Herve Renard, Head Coach of Saudi Arabia, gives their team instructions during FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

Photo by Hector Vivas - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Qatar 2022: Why African Fans Are Calling Saudi’s Coach, Hervé Renard, An "African Legend"

Defeating Argentina 2-1 in a historic World Cup upset, Renard is being remembered for his impressive coaching stint with African teams.

Saudi Arabia’s upset win over Argentina is one for the books, a 2-1 victory that has opened Group C’s turn of matches in the World Cup. The Lionel Messi-led side scored a controversial penalty from Messi himself in the 10th minute, but Saudi Arabia turned things around with a tactical second-half comeback.

At the 48th minute, Saleh Al-Shehri sent a low shot into the opponent’s far post. Then came Salem Al-Dawsari on the edge of the penalty area in the 53rd minute, curling in a screamer to take the lead against Argentina. This is the first time the South American nation has lost their first game in the World Cup, ending a 36-game unbeaten streak since 1990.

With praise being showered on the players, they couldn’t have achieved such feat without the technical chops of their coach Hervé Renard. Social media platforms like Twitter have been bubbling with mini campaigns with his name. African fans have galvanized under nostalgia, fondly remembering him as a two-time AFCON-winning coach.

Before the 54-year-old Frenchman took over the affairs of Saudi Arabia in 2019, his exploits in African football was a successful run in his 23-year managerial career. After briefly managing Angola and USM Alger in 2010 and 2011 respectively, he led the Zambian national team to win their first AFCON in 2012, beating Ivory Coast 8-7 on penalties in the finals. He did it wearing his famed, fitted white shirt over black pants, a style choice he prefers which has suited him well.

In 2015, the African Cup of Nations final was also decided on penalties. Ivory Coast were crowned champions as they beat Ghana 9-8 in a dramatic shootout. Renard was the coach of this Ivorian side. He remains the only coach who has won AFCON titles for two different African teams. These milestones have fetched him other laurels, winning the CAF Coach of the Year three times - in 2012, 2015, and 2018.

Appointed as head coach for Morocco in 2016, Renard as a master tactician produced impressive performances from the North African side in the 2018 World Cup, and also in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers. Nigerian fans have raised questions on why he never managed the country’s football team. From other fans, especially those from Zambia and Ivory Coast, Renard is a hero, his name cemented in their country’s national glory.

As the World Cup progresses, Renard would be looking to consolidate his surprise win over Argentina by facing Poland and Mexico in Saudi Arabia’s next encounters. Regardless of the outcome or the extent he may reach in the competition, it’s clear that African football fans will always have his back.