Exclusive interview with Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi


§  Djamel unpacks winning mentality, player attitude and quality

§  47-year-old wants perfect TotalEnergies CAF AFCON start

§  Talks star-studded player quality and bringing joy to the dressing room


Algeria have set sights on a successful TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Côte d'Ivoire 2023 campaign.

Much of that ambition is being driven by the need to wrestle a third trophy to fill a cabinet that has been yearning for an addition.

The North Africans last won a TotalEnergies CAF AFCON in 2019, and are looking at achieving thesame under the 47-year-old coach, Djamel Belmadi.

In this exclusive interview with CAFOnline, the former Manchester City star talks winning mentality, player attitude and quality, and the overall TotalEnergies CAF AFCON quest to succeed.


Coach you have led this group to the last two AFCON and this is the third one, how has it been like for you as the head coach? 

It’s a massive pride to represent my country and to lead this national team in those amazing competitions like the AFCON and at the same time, it is a huge responsibility because we are a country of football and we have a population that love football and especially the national team and we gave our people a lot of joy when we won the AFCON in 2019. We were disappointed in the last one because there were lot of expectations and we couldn’t satisfy them, we couldn’t satisfy ourselves first and we couldn’t satisfy them, so we feel we have to give back something in this AFCON.


What do you want to give them in this AFCON?

I know there are lot of big teams; because we went out in the first round in Cameroon, we can’t say we are the favorites for this competition, No. We were not in the last World Cup, which was our main target since 2019. We put a lot of energy to qualify to this World Cup, actually, it was our first target.

So we can’t say that we are the favorites, we can’t say we are going to win it, but we can say we’ve prepared ourselves to give our best and to perform in this competition and to go as far as possible.


The Algerian coaching job is a hot one but you’ve been on the forefront since 2018; what’s working the magic for you? 

First of all, the passion of football. The love I have for my country and of course after 2019 until today, I got some opportunities to go elsewhere to have maybe better contract but the love I have for my country, players especially the most experienced ones that I started working with since 2018 and the youngest who came in new and quality players, I would have betrayed them if I went out after those two disappointing results in the last AFCON and the World Cup qualification. So, because of that loyalty, I don’t want to go with those last two disappointing results.

I want to to do something and give something for my country. If I feel that I was not the man who can do something for this national team (I don’t have a guarantee of course) I will by myself and if I feel I didn’t have the trust and confidence from my country and the people in the federation, I will leave but it was the opposite. They were all asking me to continue, to stay, do my best and to bring joy to the country.


You have so many experienced players in your team, how much of an inspiration are they to the younger ones?

For me they are key players, I mean they are experienced players because before football being players, they are amazing human beings and they feel they also have a responsibility to welcome the new players to teach them how much it is to put on this jersey, how it is important to represent our country. I think they are the best people to put them in the right track and to show them on the daily basis in the training sessions how they are involved in this project, giving their maximum every time they put on this jersey.


How do you manage this star-studded squad?

I don’t see them as stars, I see them as my players and they are top human beings; they don’t act like stars. If they are stars they have to show it on the pitch. They are normal people, and well educated, so when we put some kind of policy in the group, everybody respects that, everybody is living their own life so I don’t see it as a problem. I like to have this kind of players.


What is it that this Algerian team has that others in your group don’t have?

I think we have this culture of enjoying to play football; we love scoring goals, and we love creating chances. We are always thinking of winning and not to defend, not to go with a draw. So, this is our spirit, and our way of seeing football. Every team have their qualities and strength so our way is this, our way is skillful players, and attacking football. So, that is why I think people like to see us. It doesn’t work every time, we cannot win every game but some of the times, it is the way I see the football.


What’s the target like for you in Côte d'Ivoire? 

It is to start well, it is important in a tournament that the first game you should negotiate it perfectly; you need to take the three points. So we respect Angola, if we analyze the last three results of Angola, they do not concede many goals, they defend very well, they are a tough team to play. So, first of all is winning the first game and then we go to the next; it’s battle after battle. Of course our expectations and ambitions are high. As I said, in the beginning, because we went out in the first round in Cameroon, we were not in the last World Cup, we cannot say, that we are the favorites, we have to be humble. What we feel, talk, say between us on what is our ambition might be different but our communication should be like this because of the last AFCON.


There are few countries that have won the AFCON with former players. Is it something you will encourage others to do? 

Not every ex player can be a good coach; you really love it not because you are a player with the passion which may go down a bit because football has become not the one you were playing, it is more professional and comes with sacrifices. So, some players when they finish their career, they just want to forget that.

But there are some, like me who love this game so much, who want to find another way to stay in this game and being a coach for me is the closest way to go.

But you need to have the mindset, we are talking about the same sport but completely different job so you need to study some things, you need to have your diploma, you need to have your formation, you need to have your good methodology to be a top manager.

Also, if you are a former player with experience on the continent, the relation you have with your own country gives you an advantage as compared to the other coaches. I think we are talking about Aliou Cise, Walid Regragrui and some others so I hope there will be more coaches like this and they get the best results like Walid reaching the semi finals of a World Cup, the first by any African side. Aliou Cise the current champion of Africa, two participations at the World Cup.