Le Roy: Gulf Cup title memories as fresh as ever

Le Roy: Gulf Cup title memories as fresh as ever
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Published October 27th, 2016 - 15:26 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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Claude Le Roy
Claude Le Roy

More than seven and a half years have passed since the historic night for Oman football when the Red Warriors, led by Frenchman Claude Le Roy, lifted their maiden Gulf Cup trophy in front of thousands of delirious home fans at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex. 

The celebrations that followed and the adulation that the players and the Oman coach received after the greatest achievement of the senior national team are now part of football folklore in the sultanate.

So, it came as no surprise a couple of days back that the architect of that title win, Le Roy, was escorted along with his wife past the immigration queue at the Muscat International Airport upon their arrival, after an official spotted the 68 year old coach and fondly recollected that famous night on January 17, 2009.

“Yes, it (the memories) is still very fresh, and more so, when I arrive in Oman,” Le Roy told Muscat Daily on Wednesday. “I have been in Muscat for the past couple of days and it really amazes me that people thank me and remember me for my role in lifting the Gulf Cup. There are requests for selfies and congratulatory messages are exchanged even today. It is a humbling experience.”

Le Roy is currently the manager of the Togo national team. The Frenchman, who parted ways with the Oman team in 2011, only to go back and make his mark again with African sides like he had done in the past, is disappointed that the country failed to make it to the next round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

“Oman has a pool of talented players and it was disheartening to know that it could not advance to the next round of the qualifiers,” he said. Le Roy said that the Oman Football Association (OFA) needs to focus a lot more on grassroots development to improve the overall standard of the game in the country.

“The OFA needs to start early. There has to be a proper structure and emphasis should be on starting leagues for U12 and U14 boys. The foundation has to be strong; Omani players have the potential to do well at the international stage.

“I was lucky to have a balanced group of talented players and it was the key to our success. I have handled big names during my long career, but what is crucial is to have a balance in the team. That is what I had when we won the Gulf Cup,” he said.

A tough taskmaster, Le Roy believes that fitness and discipline are the basic requirements of any footballer. “It's the basic criteria. He must have it and only if a player is fit and disciplined, I prefer to have a look at his skills,” he said.

An African love affair

Le Roy has had a long managerial career in Africa, beginning in 1985 with Cameroon.

The Frenchman continues his love affair with African teams as he has now led six countries to a record nine African Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals, including a title win with Cameroon in 1998.

He has also managed Senegal, Ghana, DR Congo, Congo and now Togo. He led the Indomitable Lions twice, first from 1985-88 and then in 1998 when he took them to the World Cup in France. Le Roy also led Ghana to a world ranking of No 14, the highest ever position, in 2008 before arriving in Oman.

Earlier this year, Le Roy took over Togo from Tom Saintfiet, with little chance of qualifying for the AFCON finals next January in Gabon. But the master tactician changed the fortunes of the team and eventually shepherded them to the finals - his ninth, a phenomenal record in Africa.

“I have a special relationship with Africa," Le Roy said. "Wherever I worked, I had very good memories and made enduring friendships. I have always lived in the countries that I have coached. A coach must know the country and its culture.

“A coach needs to scout throughout the country, to find players who can be integrated into the national team, like I did when I was in Oman.” The Frenchman signed a three-year deal with Togo in April this year. Having achieved what no other coach has in Africa, Le Roy hopes to lead a team to his tenth AFCON finals in 2019.

I did nothing unfair: Le Roy

Le Roy was recently in the news for the wrong reasons, when he was fined for being involved in fraudulent player transfers while he was coach of French side, Racing Club de Strasbourg.

He was even facing a prison sentence, but the French court turned down the prosecutors' request and asked him to pay a fine of US$15,620. Le Roy was manager of the French side from 1998-2003. He was found guilty in relation to a 'case of forgery and usage of a false title' in four different player transfers.

The coach said, “I am relieved and happy. At least they have cleared me of any wrongdoing. They know that I was entrapped. I did nothing unfair.” Former Racing Club de Strasbourg president Patrick Proisy was given a ten-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of US$26,000.

© Apex Press and Publishing

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