Tom Saintfiet: “Money isn’t an issue, I want to coach Ethiopia and can start immediately!”

By Zecharias Zelalem

Former Namibia, Zimbabwe, Yemen, Malawi, Ethiopia and Togo national team coach Tom Saintfiet believes he is the best option to succeed the recently fired Yohannes Sahle as Ethiopian national team coach.    

Yohannes Sahle, has finally been given the sack after a poor run of results saw Ethiopia exit the 2016 CHAN tournament prematurely, and her AFCON aspirations take severe and possibly fatal blows.

Coach Tom Saintfiet (Photo: espnfc.com)
Coach Tom Saintfiet (Photo: espnfc.com)

But while most Ethiopian football fans have a somewhat glum outlook on what the future of Ethiopian football offers, Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet believes things look much brighter than what they appear to be. The man who completed his coaching badges and became the youngest professional head coach in Belgium at age 24 says there’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to the talent at Ethiopia’s disposal. Saintfiet spoke in detail with Ethiosports over what he saw as an opportunity to do things the right way.

“For the next four years or so, Ethiopia will still have a host of experienced players who were at the 2013 AFCON, as well as a crop of young growing talent,” Sainfiet says. “This local combination of newcomers and established players, combined with the foreign based talent means we can create a strong mix of talent and experience that can serve the country for many years.”

Tom Saintfiet would be no stranger to the Ethiopian game. Hired in 2011 to replace Iffy Onuora only months after the latter’s Ethiopian side were dismantled 4-0, he managed to pull off an unlikely 2-2 draw against the same Nigerian team barely months later, a result which ended up dumping Nigeria out of 2012 AFCON contention. In Saintfiet’s last game in charge, Ethiopia defeated Madagascar 4-2. In only a couple of months, Saintfiet had restructured and rebuilt the Ethiopian national team into a well oiled machine. Many fans argue that it was the progress made under Saintfiet’s leadership that led to his successor Sewnet Bishaw guiding the team to its first AFCON in three decades. Saintfiet still has a lot of friends in Ethiopia and would be most likely welcomed with open arms.

Saintfiet also refuses to close the case on Ethiopia’s current campaign to reach Gabon 2017 despite the woes of surmounting a -12 goal difference after a 7-1 battering at the hands of Algeria.

“There is still a chance of qualifying with eleven points. The goal difference from the 7-1 loss doesn’t help but it’s still possible. I’m well acquainted with the national sides of Seychelles and Lesotho. I’ve watched Lesotho live last year, and have faced Seychelles many times in the past. We can beat them both and qualify.”

Tom Saintfiet and Adane Girma
 Tom Saintfiet and Adane Girma

Tom Saintfiet has an extremely impressive resume. He has traveled across Africa amassing valuable experience and collecting accolade after accolade. Among his achievements, Namibia’s 30 place climb upwards in the FIFA rankings and his winning the 2012 CECAFA Club Cup title at the helm of Tanzanian side Young Africans SC.  The Belgian FA officially recommends his services as one of the top coaching experts out there. Despite his having just left the Togolese national team and being sought after by club sides and national teams alike, he says when it comes to Ethiopia, money isn’t an issue.

“No I don’t care about the money or a contract,” says Saintfiet. “I would just like to help change fortunes and start to build things up on a solid foundation. I’m ready to start immediately!”

With 46 FIFA “A” internationals under his belt, Saintfiet has most likely seen it all. Despite his travels across the world, his short stint in Addis Ababa has marked him like no other job.

A year ago he described to me what according to him was the most amazing moment in his coaching career.

“I have coached many sides across Africa, but the most incredible moment I have ever experienced in my career was when 30,000 people at Addis Ababa stadium stood up and sang the Ethiopian national anthem just before the match with Nigeria (in 2011). Even the memories give me goosebumps. It was absolutely amazing!”

Exactly when the Ethiopian Football Federation plan on hiring a new coach isn’t clear; but with the final two AFCON qualifying games bearing down on them, Ethiopia cannot waste time in finding a suitable replacement for Yohannes Sahle who can pull off the Hail Mary attempt at reaching Gabon 2017. It would be hard to argue against Tom Saintfiet.

Zecharias Zelalem is a regular contributor of Ethiosports.

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10 thoughts on “Tom Saintfiet: “Money isn’t an issue, I want to coach Ethiopia and can start immediately!”

  1. Dear Writer,

    Why are you offended at the anonymous commenters rebuke?

    How can you miss the importance that the man at the helm of the national team should be an Ethiopian? The Belgian may be touted as a savior but any progress our national team makes under the leadership of foreign coach is meaningless to me and many like me. National teams are not like clubs, they represent our nation, our past, present and future. Your criticisms of Coach Sahle are mostly valid but not your solutions for what ails the national team.

    I hope the federation is not of the same opinion as the writer.

    Best Regards

  2. @Anonymous
    SO WHAT DO YOU THINK THE SOLUTION IS?
    You can’t just be Negative for Oakland suggestions.
    Give us the solution, what it has to be done

  3. Well folks Ethiopia doesn’t have a world class GK…and world class #9 you all can say and pretend the next coach will change anything ur not being objective…This man all he is doing is lobbying for a job.. But of course we still think the Savior is coming… I suppose it’s a bit sad…we will probably talk again when this one is sacked..

  4. The Ethiopian team we saw in last african cup was built by Tom saintifit. We have to admit that he is a good fit, for our national team to coach.
    However, yohanes was not a bad coach, I saw some talented players in his team,…I really don’t know what is going on in. Our football federation

  5. I was also at the Addis Ababa Stadium for the game between Ethiopia and Nigeria. I vividly remember the likes of Obi Mikel and his team mates struggling to keep up with the pace of the game. I was baffled as to why our players were not able to make it to the big leagues in Europe and elsewhere. We matched Nigeria in every department and nearly beat them handsomely ,had it not been for a concentration lapse from our defenders in the dying minutes of the match. Saintfiet had a hand in whatever good in the National Team even if it was Ato Sewnet who took us to AFCON.

    Having said that, I agree with Zecharias’ story in its totallity. Saintfiet always maintained his desire to manage our National Team even after he was sacked. He always gave interviews on our football mostly in the positive. The guy has seen some potential in Ethiopia football. He keeps saying money is not an issue for him. He believes we can still make it to Gabon 2017. Hello! I see no other option other than him at the moment.

    I would like to add that I had a great hope when Yohannes was appointed. Not because of his track records,but by the way he expressed himself in pre and post match interviews. The confidence with which he was able to communicate his ideas was unfortunately not reflected on his team on the field. If you do not walk the talk, you are shown the exit door.

    Whoever this “ANONYMOUS” is saying doesn’t make any sense at all. As far as I am concerned, Zecharias( the writer) did a good job for our football in reminding those in power at EFF, that a certain Mr. Saintfiet is waiting in the wings to take over. Is Anonymous suggesting we should have kept At Yohannes? If so, why don’t you forward your arguements for saying so instead of lashing out on a contributor?

    Keep it up Zecharias!

  6. I was at addis ababa stadium when Ethiopia played Nigeria in 2011,and ethiopia deserved to win that game but the wrong timing of the ethiopian gool keeper costed us the win. Tom Saintfit had build a good team at that time.

  7. Zecharias, please ignore the fool, not confident enough to use his name in the comments.

    Your are doing a wonderful job. I have followed you for the past few years, and the comments made by “anonymous” are far from real.

    Keep up the good job! The point you made on your article about Saintfiet is good one. I won’t mind if he get hired.

  8. Professional! That’s laughable… One thing for sure you have a very thin skin, also I understand you are not a journalist but you are trying to impersonate one. My advice to you is first, you must fully understand what you are writing about. You are very naive about football and the state of football in Ethiopia… Enough said… Keep on writing my good man we all need good entertainment..

  9. Mr. Anonymous commenter, it’s even more mind boggling how some people are quite as church mice when you meet them in person but become disrespectful insulting trolls when they are hidden behind a screen with no image. That bravery of yours just disappears in real life. I am more than willing to address queries that are respectful and professional in nature.

    I’ve written extensively on our “countryman in Yohannes Sahle” just check the article posted here yesterday.

    Next time please inform yourself before making an outlandish declaration.

    Thanks.

  10. It’s amazing how much you know about a foreign coach, yet how little you have chosen to know about your own country man in Yohanne shale… It’s mind boggling, the only explanation is what they call in America slave mentality…

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