Avram Grant achieved surprising international attention as replacement for Jose Mourinho after his first stint as Chelsea manager in 2007, but the 59-year-old manager’s coaching history stretches back over four decades. The former Israel, Portsmouth, West Ham United and Partizan Belgrade boss was appointed to lead Ghana into the upcoming CAF Africa Cup of Nations in November, and he recently spoke to FIFA.com about the challenges for the Black Stars, his expectations and the continental finals in Equatorial Guinea, which begins on 17 January.
FIFA.com: You have been tasked to ‘do well’ at the AFCON. Is the team capable of achieving that goal?
Avram Grant: I will be as happy as anybody when we are scoring goals and winning games, and I will be as sad as anyone when we are losing games. We want to do well in Equatorial Guinea, and as a coach I need to be very focused until the final moment and that is what will happen at the competition.
What do you think of your opponents in Group C – South Africa, Senegal and Algeria?
We want to win every game, but we will also need to stay within our process. Algeria is the best ranked team in Africa currently, and they were Africa’s best performers in Brazil at the World Cup too, while South Africa have done very well including denying Nigeria, the defending champions, a place and chance to defend their title. And Senegal is a very good team and it will be tough. It is a hard task, but we all know there are no easy games, especially with this group.
Do you have enough time to put together a strong side for the AFCON given the short span of time since your appointment, and is there a way back for players who were dropped from previous squads?
I have been following the exploits of all the Ghanaian players and those that I know I will be working with. The door is open for every player, but, they need to show that they are willing to sacrifice for the national team. To prepare a team in a short time, I dare say it looks impossible, but it is better than nothing. If you have to prepare a team like that, it is better to speak with the senior players. I can assure you that every day when we step onto the pitch, we will want to win. Not even a draw is ever good enough. I will count on players with a strong mentality who can give everything on the pitch. That is what I want you to see.
Do locally-based players have a chance to make the squad?
I will be [in Ghana] to watch the local league a lot. I want to see them, so I will scout in the local league a lot and those who deserve a chance will have it. I will be very happy to see players that I think will help the national team. I also want to contribute to the development of the game here.
What do you look for in players?
The national team is more important than any individual, so if each individual has the quality to improve the national team and he is willing to sacrifice, he is welcome. First, I believe in good football, which requires a good technique, but you always need a balance. The philosophy is to attack and defend all together.
You have somewhat of a reputation as a stop-gap manager. Do you prefer longer spells in charge of teams?
I will be here for two years and three months and I hope everyone will be happy. I would like to be here for a long time to come – even until the next World Cup, as long as everyone is happy and we can continue, even for 20 years. I always like to work for a long period with any team. The first thing I want to do is get to know my players by using the short time available now and then plan for the future. The dream of every coach is to do really well and take care of the future.
It sometimes isn’t easy to gain visas for travel in Africa. Do you think as an Israeli citizen that will be an issue?
I do not see any problem about my passport. I am a football person and football is an international language. I have been all over the world, including some countries that people said that I cannot go to. I hope no body judges me by anything including my passport. I am a football man, and I want to be trusted as such and there should be no problems.