On Monday, January 14, Tanzania giants announced that they have appointed Luc Eymael as their head coach replacing the sacked Zahera Mwinyi.
The Yanga fans and community were excited and ready to welcome a coach who boasts of “identifying and nurturing the talents of top Belgium players among them Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard.”
The excitement and expectations were high and Yanga thought in Eymael they had someone who will turn their flailing fortunes around. They were hopeful that the tactician will give their campaign a new direction and oomph to take on their rampaging rivals Simba, who are currently perched on top of the Tanzanian league with 41 points after 16 matches.
But did Yanga get the right man for the tough task ahead?
Well, in the first week within his appointment, the eccentric gaffer had already lost two matches, he had gotten on the wrong side Tanzania federation after he accused referee Hans Mabena of racism. There are murmurs among fans that the Belgian is focusing too much on sideshows instead of trying to win actual football matches.
So, who is this Luc Eymael? We try to unwrap the Belgian’s colourful football journey and his sometimes abrasive relationship with football administrators in Africa.
Eymael was born in Tongres in Belgium in 1959 and started his football career with local side Royal Star Feron and spent his career with second and third division clubs in Belgium before retiring in 2001.
He embarked on the coaching career in 2002 when he was appointed the head coach of Belgian side KFC Weywertz. He would later coach three other clubs in the country before he ventured into Africa in 2010.
His first taste of African football was with DR Congo’s AS Vita. He won the Linafoot, DRC’s top division, in his first year.
The success saw him cross over to Gabonese side Missile in 2011. Success seemed to follow him and once again he guided his new side win The Championnat, their first-ever title. Missile had a fairly good run in the 2011 CAF Confederation Cup where they lost to Algeria’s JS Kabylie. That was one of the most successful spells for the club.
His exploits caught the eye of the Algerian sie MC Oran who offered him a one year deal in June 2012. He would later quit the side three months later due to non-payment of his wages.
In April 2013, he moved to Kenya and took up the head coach role at AFC Leopards. Under his tenure, the club played an attractive brand of football and got the best out of the front three of Allan Wanga, Paul Were and Noah Wafula.
The three forwards were so efficient in goal as they were in crazy celebratory jigs that they were nicknamed Wanga Musica, after the Congolese rhumba group Wenga Musica.
At Ingwe, he won FKF Cup in 2013 and finished second in the Kenyan Premier League behind traditional rivals Gor Mahia.
Despite pleas from AFC Leopards fans and a personal pledge by the then acting club Chairman, Dr Walter Onyino, Eymael quit the club in September 2013 and claimed that he had been approached by South African giants Orlando Pirates.
The deal, however, fell through and he was out of a job for a few months before showing up in Rwanda.
In January the following year, he was appointed the head coach of Rayon Sports. He would quit the side six months later but not before helping them finish second in the Rwandese top league.
In July 2014, he moved to Tunisia where he was appointed as the head coach of the club, JS Kairouan. He helped his side secure the 8th position in the 2013–14 Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1 which was the club's best-ever performance in the top division in the past ten years.
He was not yet done with his pastoralist-like coaching life.
In November 2014 he joined Omani struggling side Al Nasr Salalah. As usual, his work was immediately felt as the side went on an impressive run winning seven of their ten league matches drawing two losing a single game.
Back to Africa
Eymael popped up in Africa with Sudan’s Al Merreikh in December 2015. He helped the Sudanese side qualify for the Second Round of the 2016 CAF Champions League where they narrowly lost on aggregate to Algerian side, ES Sétif. His side was narrowly eliminated on a 2-1 aggregate in the Play-off round of the 2016 CAF Confederation Cup by Moroccan side, Kawkab Marrakech.
In all the competitions played by the Sudanese club under the Belgian manager, they managed to win 17 games and played out 3 draws in a total of 22 ties.
In 2016 he moved South and South African side Polokwane City. He built a cult-like following at the club as he transformed the perennial relegation fighting side into a formidable and title-challenging side. He spent a year before quitting with reports linking him to another Premier Soccer League side Bloemfontein Celtic.
He whoever joined rivals Free State Stars in 2017 taking over from the sacked Sammy Troughton. His magic touch followed him as he led the club to it’s first-ever Cup final in 24 years. They beat giants Kaizer Chiefs on the way to final. The won the 2018 Nedbank Cup with a 1-0 over Maritzburg United. He quit the club in November 2018.
Least successful stint
Ever in demand, Eymael was snapped up by Egyptian side Tala el Geish in November the same year. He led the club to finish the league in the eighth position, the best ever finish for the side in the Egyptian top flight.
A migratory bug bit him once again and in October last year, he was back in South Africa with Black Leopards. This was his least successful stint at any club in Africa and he quit weeks later citing personal reasons.
He wouldn’t stay out of job for so long, either by design or chance, Tanzania’s Yanga announced that he was joining them on January 10 this year. It’s the early days but the jury is still out there to see if he will lead the club to glory in Dar es Salaam.
His unsettled nature and willingness to walk out of the clubs have brushed a number of people the wrong side.
Former Kaizer Chiefs tactician Steve Komphela accused him of disrespecting local coaches.
"You don't come disrespect and expect everybody else to be running behind your tale. I'm not a dog. Things that are wrong, they must be told as they are. The old times of white people dominating black people are no more, this guy must understand this is Africa, that's all," he said.
Eymael dismissed the claims stating that he has never disrespected anyone.
"My personal values prevent me from showing disrespect to anyone. Personally I do not feel any animosity towards anyone. Personally I never looked to other coaches as an enemy, but opponents, against whom I have always fought with respect.
He would soon get embroiled in another racism row in his first week in Dar. He accused Mabena of racially discriminating him after he refused to shake his hand.
"The referee gave me a yellow card, I apologised and extended my hand but he turned the handshake down. I felt offended and I feel that is racism. What if it was me who had refused to shake his hand? This is not a good example of all the things happening around the world," he said.
The Tanzania Federation dismissed the claims and formally reprimanded him over his conduct. Yanga fans also urged him to focus on the team and avoid sideshows.
Has he carried his magic wand to Yanga? Will he turn around Yanga’s campaign and turn around the club’s season? How long will he stay at the club? Only time will answer these queries.
Luc Eymael at a glance
- Date of birth 20 September 1959 (age 60)
- Place of birth Tongeren, Belgium
- Playing position Goalkeeper
- 1999–2003 RUS Sartoise
- 2003–2004 Weywertz
- 2004–2007 Jeunesse Lorraine Arlonaise
- 2007–2009 RFC Spy
- 2009–2010 Royal Racing Club Hamoir
- 2010–2011 AS Vita
- 2011–2012 Missile
- 2012 MC Oran
- 2013 A.F.C. Leopards
- 2014 Rayon Sports
- 2014–2015 JS Kairouan
- 2015 Al-Nasr
- 2015–2016 Al-Merrikh
- 2016–2017 Polokwane City
- 2017–2018 Free State Stars
- 2018–2019 Tala'ea El Gaish
- 2019–2020 Black Leopards
- 2019–2020 Young Africans
- AS Vita: Linafoot (1), Winners 2010, Super Coupe du Congo (1), Winners 2011
- Missile Gabon Championnat National D1 (1), Winners 2010–11
- A.F.C. Leopards Kenyan Premier League, Runners-up 2013
- FKF President's Cup (1), Winners 2013
- Rayon Sports Rwanda National Football League, Runners-up 2013–14
- Free State Stars Nedbank Cup (1), Winners 2018