Haiti prepare for new adventure under guidance of Marc Collat

It was this week confirmed that Marc Collat will manage the Haiti national football team, signing a renewable two-year contract. Previous boss Israel Cantero is no more as Haiti prepares for a fresh challenge under fresh management.

Collat was formally presented to the media by the President of the Haitian Football Federation (FHF), Yves Jean-Bart, in Croix-des-Bouquets on Thursday. Collat – born in Fort-de-France in Martinique – has been given the role of overseeing both the senior team and Olympic section. Jérôme Velfert will be his right hand man and coach of the Under-20s while Marc Cheze has been brought in to take care of the Under-17s setup. There’s  a whole new management team at the helm.

But it wasn’t like under Cantero’s stewardship that “The Grenadiers” played poorly or underachieved. In fact, they enjoyed a little renaissance during 2013 as they gave extremely good accounts of themselves against Spain (lost 2-1) and Italy (drew 2-2) in friendlies and qualified for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the summer. The draw against the Italians was a particularly sweet result as Haiti netted twice in the last five minutes. Jean Philippe Peguero equalized with literally the last kick of the match.

Cantero had got them playing fluid, counter-attacking football. It’s just the slight deficiency in defence that cost them. At the Gold Cup, held in America, Haiti finished bottom of Group B but generally played well. They came undone against Honduras and El Salvador but turned in a very assured performance against Caribbean rivals Trinidad & Tobago to win 0-2. Cantero didn’t do much wrong but Collat brings a wealth of experience and promises to be a significant improvement on his predecessor.

Collat, 63, played as a defender in the early 1970s to the early 1980s mainly with USM Malakoff. His career as a player was rather unglamorous but, as is sometimes the case, he made the transition to football coaching seamlessly. In 1986, he became a scout at Paris Saint-Germain before taking up the France Under-18s job. Around 10 years later he was named Sporting Director at French lower league club Amiens SC. Since then he’s been head of the highly acclaimed PSG Youth Academy and had experience in international management with two teams: Qatar Under-19s and Mauritius.

There’s more clubs sandwiched in between that list. Clearly, Collat has been around the block a fair few times and is no stranger to taking on a new challenge. He’s worked a lot with youngsters and knows the ins and outs of managing at both club and international level. He’s an old, wiry coach and it helps that there will be no language barrier between him and his new set of players.

Asked on why previous coaches of Haiti have failed to steer them to trophy success, Collat responded: “I do not know why these coaches failed. However, I am very familiar with the Haitian team and it is unacceptable that Haiti has all these good players and that collectively, the team has not been successful.” A sum of $20,500 [US] (€15,000) has been made available for Collat and his staff to develop, nurture and deliver. According to Jean-Bart, the marathon funds of 2013 during the Gold Cup trials were achieved to meet this amount. If he isn’t successful with that kind of funding and backing, then he’s unlikely to stay in the job for long. What is deemed as success for Haiti and their supporters? Expectations have risen over the last few years and the people want more than what they’re currently getting. The draw for the Caribbean Cup is set to take place on January 28 and Collat will need to produce a creditable finish in that. Then there is the Gold Cup and 2018 World Cup qualification. Targets are high and it remains to be seen whether they’ll be reached.

Collat has spoken on the goals that have been set: “My first goal is to win the Nations Cup [Caribbean Cup] with the Grenadiers and qualify for the Olympic team for the 2016 Olympics. We must allow our football to breathe this new life.” He’ll be a busy man, that’s for sure. Focusing on the senior team is hard enough but juggling the development of the Olympic section will make it double as difficult. It seems the onus is very much on the youth, even more so than ever before. The youth sides have been given new coaches and new targets. Nine individuals in the squad that travelled to the US for the Gold Cup tournament in the summer were aged 25 or under. Haiti has some very capable, young players at their disposal. Jean-Eudes Maurice is arguably the most well-known of the bunch. He plays for PSG and was the stand-out performer at the Gold Cup.

Reports suggest Collat is very open to considering calling up domestic-based players to the squad should they perform to the required level. As well as those abroad in Europe, US and Canada. His assistants Velfert and Cheze are apparently already part of the three divisions in Haiti and will be scouting for potential newcomers. Locals will not be ignored. And that can only be a positive thing for enhancing home-grown talent. Haiti isn’t blessed with financial resources as it is.

The FHF has pencilled in March as the month when Haiti are most likely to play their first official competitive match under Collat. The first few months will be all bout settling in, getting to know the group and preparing for 2014. Haitian supporters haven’t had very much to shout about in recent years (2013 being an exception with the friendlies). The last Haitian manager to take charge of the national side was back in 2008 in the shape of Wagneau Eloi. Since then, a Colombian, Brazilian and Cuban have all been in the hot-seat. A new chapter begins with Collat. Jean-Bart and the FHF are well behind him. So are the fans, players, media and his assistants. All the ingredients are there to succeed.

Over to you, Marc…