Encounter with Antoine Hey...head coach for senior Scorpions

Thursday, October 26, 2006
Antoine Hey is the new coach for The Gambia’s senior national team. Aged, 36, Antoine Hey played professional football in Germany, Switzerland and England for 14 years before retiring from active football at the age of 31 to pursue a coaching career.

He is a holder of the highest coaching license worldwide -the UEFA/FIFA Pro-license, having attended a UEFA coaching instructor course. Antoine Hey had a successful sting with a second division club in Germany for nine months before he was grasped by Lesotho for 13 months. Hey made his presence felt in Lesotho by qualifying the South-African nation to the 2005 CAF U-20 Youth Championship finals in Benin 2005 -the same tourney The Gambia have just qualified for.

In this encounter with Nanama Keita, the anchorman of Observer Sports, the young-looking and seasoned German-born coach talked about his career as a player and a coach, what compelled him to accept The Gambia’s offer and his objective to qualify The Gambia to their first-ever Nations Cup finals in Ghana 2008.

Tell me who Antoine Hey is?

First of all, I am the new coach for the senior national team. If you ask me what I have done before - I was a professional football player for 14 years. I played in Germany, Switzerland and in England. My first club was Grasshoppers Zurich in Switzerland. I also played for Schalke 04 and Fortuna Dusseldort in the Germany first division Bunders league.

I moved to Birmingham City in 1996 for 3 years playing in the championship. After this, I went back to Germany and played for several one or two clubs in the second bunders league division. I stopped playing at the age of 31 in Bristol City, England before I made up for a coaching license up to UEFA Pro-license. I coached a second division club in Germany for 9 months before I signed for Lesotho for 13 months. We qualified for the African U-20 finals in Benin 2005. Unfortunately, we couldn’t qualify for the world cup after we finished 3rd in the group of four. We needed to finish second in order to qualify for the World Cup. Now I am in The Gambia hoping to qualify with the team for the Nations Cup finals.

We are told that you only agreed with The Gambia on principles, thus nothing has yet been inked. What is your reaction to that?

Yea....basically things take time in Africa..this is my experience. But all relevant parts have been agreed on and we’re working together for the next two years. The government is very helpful and has assured me its full-backing for the senior national team because they realise that the national team is a national interest. Therefore everybody is involved.

You had your first assignment for The Gambia on October 7th, 2006, when The Gambia lost to Algeria. What is your reaction to that?

First we can be very proud of the performance of the players who did very well away from home. It was a brilliant performance away from home, despite the fact that we lost some of our key players. If not for the doubtful penalty in the 77th minute, we would have taken away the point that we were looking for. But we’re still second in the Group on 3 points so we have everything in our own hands. We are playing against the leading team, Algeria, in September at home and I am expecting this to be finally where it will be decided as to which team goes to the finals. We’re trying to get ready for the next task ahead, this is Guinea at home in March and other two away games.

What is your assessment of Gambian players - both foreign and home based players?

We have lots of talented players playing in top European clubs. Unfortunately not all of them are playing regularly in their respective clubs and this reflects on their performance. This is something that makes it difficult to get the players ready for such a huge game against Algeria but equally we managed and I am very proud of what I have seen. I am absolutely convinced and optimistic that we have a brilliant chance of qualifying from the group.

Some players overseas may claim to be playing active football when in the real sense they’re not. What mechanism will you employ to monitor Gambian foreign-based players to know whether they are playing or not?

I have a contract on the table and in it, I have a budget for travel expenses to observe Gambian foreign-based players, to talk to their clubs and see how they are performing. And also their problems -fitness wise and injury wise. This is the main task in the next few weeks or months.

Also we have some players that have not featured in the national team before but we have them in the list and I want to see them, speak to some of them personally. We also have some promising talents in the U-20 and U-23 teams!.

During your short stay in The Gambia, how would you describe the environment - I mean your impression about the football association among other things.

This is the third time I have been here and I have realised the huge support from the public for all national teams. The Gambia is hungry for success and we’ll make sure we achieve the goals that the public expect. In every football association, there are constraints but we’re working harder to improve on all areas - both on and off the football pitch.

The Gambia chose you as coach, but what motivated you to accept the offer?

A lot of things. First the team has a strong chance of qualifying and I know some few good players in Europe and I realise that the team has a chance to not only qualify but to claim top spots in the African continent. Also in my discussion with the Sports Ministry and relevant parties of the football association, I was assured of full backing. They promised to do everything possible to achieve the desired goal and target and this really motivated me to accept the offer on the table.

Do you have any assistant yet... and if any who is your assistant?

Not yet but we have a list of possible candidates, five of them with the clear picture of the requirement we’re looking for. In our next meeting with the team together with some experienced players, we will discuss these candidates before we make a final selection of who is going to work with us. I want to see to it that our senior players are involved in the process.

During Gambia’s game against Mali on Saturday, you were spotted in the dressing room before and during the interval - what was the purpose of being there?

First... the team and the coach did a brilliant job. I was there to show my support and interest in the game and the players. To encourage them and to show them that the national senior team coach is behind them.

Any final word for The Gambian public?

I can assure them that we will do everything possible and we’re really trying hard to achieve what is expecting of us. I am optimistic that with the support of everyone the football association, the government and the general public, we will have a brilliant chance of qualifying for Ghana 2008.
Author: Written by Nanama Keita
Source: The Daily Observer Newspaper
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