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AFCON 2023: A real test for Eric Chelle and Mali

Eric Chelle
AFCON 2023: A real test for Eric Chelle and Mali

He will lead Mali to the CAN 2023.Eric Chelle will be making his debut at the tournament, and will be keen to lead the Eagles to the summit, after a flawless qualifying campaign.

There will be a lot of players discovering the AFCON. There will also be coaches. Mali coach Eric Sekou Chelle is one of them. A former Mali international, the 44-year-old technician was appointed head coach of the Eagles in May 2023, much to everyone's surprise. Usually, "young" coaches take their first coaching steps in the junior ranks or alongside an experienced technician. But Chelle became number 1 after his stints with just three French clubs (Athletico Marseille, FC Martigues, Boulogne-sur-Mer).

"I can't hide the fact that, at the time of his appointment, there were a few questions about his ability to manage a team in the African Top 15. He had only coached three French clubs, neither in Ligue 1 nor Ligue 2, and a national team, particularly in Africa, is almost a different job. But after these two matches, there's a certain optimism. But let's wait and see what happens next," an insider told Sport News Africa shortly after his appointment.


A convincing debut with the Eagles

Born on November 11, 1977 in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to a French father, the defender opted for his mother's country. He was only called up six times for the Eagles. Nevertheless, he spent his entire career in France, notably with FC Martigues, Valenciennes and RC Lens. He hung up his boots in 2014 and began his coaching career in 2016.

On his debut at the head of the national team, Chelle scored two victories against Congo (4-0) and South Sudan (3-1), as part of the qualifiers for the 2023 African Cup of Nations. A rather successful debut. In fact, they only lost one match, to Gambia (1-0).Mali logically finished top of Group G with 15 points. Chelle achieved his first objective, that of qualifying the Eagles for their 13th AFCON.


AFCON, a real-life test for Chelle

Eric Chelle has the onerous task of restoring the reputation of Malian soccer, which is coming off the back of a huge disappointment that included elimination by Equatorial Guinea in the last 8 of the 2021 AFCON and the play-off for the 2022 World Cup. In Côte d'Ivoire, he will be aiming to do better than his predecessors.

Eric Chelle may have a clean record, but he could go down in his country's soccer history forever. If he wins the continental trophy, he will forever be a national hero. But for the time being, the 44-year-old technician is cautious."We're going to have to be effective in every sense of the word, both off and on the pitch.The first objective is to get out of this group, and then we can set other goals."

Mali are in Group E alongside South Africa, Tunisia and Namibia.A group within reach of the Eagles.

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