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Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Angola players back coach Manuel Jose to stay on

By Richard Connelly
BBC Sport, Luanda, Angola

Angola coach Manuel Jose (L) with captain Kali (R)
Angola captain Kali has backed his manager after their Nations Cup exit

Two senior Angolan players have told BBC Sport that they want Manuel Jose to continue as coach of the national team in the wake of their elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Palancas Negras were beaten 1-0 by Ghana in the quarter-finals on Sunday, leaving several players in tears in front of their home crowd.

But Jose, who signed a one-year contract when he took over in May 2009, remains popular with the entire squad, according to the captain, Kali, and defender, Rui Marques.

Kali paid tribute to the work done by Jose in the build-up to the tournament.

"He's done an immense job in a short period of time, because he didn't have much time to work, to try and rejuvenate this national team," he said.

"Since he took over, we've made lots of progress, and if we have more time, we'll do better.

"We should continue down this route, with this coach, and this mentality, to be in good shape for the next competition."

Jose, 63, is a hugely-respected coach in Africa, having led the Egyptian club Al Ahly to the African Champions League title on four occasions.

Since he took charge, Angola have only lost twice in 14 matches - to Estonia in December, and Ghana, although critics point to just three victories, and a variable standard of opposition.

We're proud of what we've done. We're out of the tournament, but everyone can go home feeling at ease with themselves

Angola's Kali

Defender Rui Marques approved of Jose's plan to make the team more difficult to play against.

"Everybody was happy with him," Marques said.

"He [created] a very good atmosphere between the players, and I think everybody will be pleased if he stays. He made some changes to the way we played and we went to the games with a lot more confidence.

"I believe he's the right person, with time, to build up something very strong for Angola."

Marques is convinced Jose's methods, combined with talented individuals such as Flavio, Manucho and Gilberto, and emerging young players Stelvio, Mabina, Chara, Djalma, and Job, could have helped them into the history books.

"We expected to go further. We were stronger than we were in Ghana [in 2008, where Angola reached their first-ever Nations Cup quarter-final].

"That's why we're a little bit disappointed. But there are a lot of things people don't know. We had a lot of players playing with injuries. We just tried to do our best."

Jose's Nations Cup ended with an immeasurably greater sadness than defeat.

He learnt of the death of his father shortly before Sunday's quarter-final, and returned to Lisbon after bidding an emotional farewell to his players in Luanda.

"He was sad, even sadder than everyone else, because he had this problem before the match," Marques said.

Rui Marques
Rui Marques says the team can help unify the country beyond Angola 2010

He's a strong character because it's not easy to deal with a situation like that, but he was very professional, he did things the right way, as if nothing had happened.

"But we knew that inside, he was very upset. We wish him all the best, and his family - and we'll wait to see what happens now."

Rui Marques said the grief of their coach was an extra motivation to the Angolan players.

"It was a hard moment. Everybody stuck with him, and tried to give him confidence, and we'd have liked to win the game for him as well, but it was difficult [because of the injuries]."

The emotion of the day took its toll on Kali. Never normally without a beaming smile, he staggered through the post-match interview zone with his head down, puffy-eyed, unable to utter any response to the many requests for comment.

He is now glad of the opportunity to relax with family and friends.

"We knew the pressure on all of us was great, because we were playing at home. To manage that is not easy, and we all need to wind down a bit, because it was two, or two-and-a-half, really tiring months, on a physical and a psychological level.

"But I think we're proud of what we've done. We're out of the tournament, but everyone can go home feeling at ease with themselves, and that's what the coach told us - go home feeling like that, keep involved with your clubs, and be ready for the next time."

Such was the hurt at missing out on Angola's first-ever Nations Cup semi-final, Kali could not watch the other quarter-finals on television.

But he is urging himself, and others, to tune in for the remaining matches.

"We'll have to watch, because the matches should be entertaining, and I ask the Angolan people that they continue to support the teams, because Angola's out, but the Championship is not over yet.

"We still want it to be an excellent tournament."

[With] football everybody sticks together, and everybody feels the same. That's why I'd like to work hard and give these people some good times

Angola's Rui Marques

And the smile is back when he talks about the future of football in this oil-rich country, where there is enough money to fund significant investment in youth, if the authorities choose to do so.

"I'm always optimistic. We've shown here that we've made lots of progress and that we can continue to progress with the stadiums we've built.

"We've grown a lot by doing that. It's a country that loves football, which lives for football, and which deserves something better."

At 32, Rui Marques is not certain how many more times he will get the call to represent his country.

But he remains devoted to the idea that sport can unify a country where many people are troubled by a widening wealth gap.

"We've been in a big war, but football is happiness for a lot of people in this country.

"We felt that when we won against Malawi - the atmosphere was fantastic, everybody was really pleased.

"It's something we can give to these people, because there's a big difference between the rich people and the poor.

"But the football - everybody sticks together, and everybody feels the same. That's why I'd like to work hard and give these people some good times."

For Kali, 31, a new period in his life begins after the Nations Cup.

After a spell in the French second division with Arles-Avignon, he is returning to Angola, to play for the side sponsored by the country's military, Primeiro de Agosto.

Meanwhile, the Angola squad has been awarded a bonus of $150,000 by a local bank, as reward for reaching the quarter-finals.

A sum of $40,000 went to leading goalscorer, Flavio, who scored three goals in the tournament, while Manucho and Gilberto - who both also scored during the tournament - received $20,000 each.

Right-back Mabina and goalkeeper Carlos were given $10,000, and the rest of the 23-man squad shared another $50,000.

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see also
Angola 0-0 Algeria
18 Jan 10 |  African
Angola 2-0 Malawi
14 Jan 10 |  African
Angola 4-4 Mali
10 Jan 10 |  African
Africa Cup of Nations fixtures
07 Jan 10 |  African
Africa Cup of Nations tables
07 Jan 10 |  African
Manucho named in Angola squad
30 Dec 09 |  African

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