It is difficult to imagine Hervé Renard (Aix-les-Bains, 54 years old), a winner with handsome old-fashioned Hollywood features, playing a garbage collector or building cleaner. Well, that was one of the characters with the most screen share of the Qatar World Cup when he stopped being a footballer until he found his place in the world as a coach, far from his native France, all very film-like.
The current coach of Saudi Arabia, the team that was the protagonist of one of the biggest surprises of the World Cups by beating Messi's Argentina, played a couple of First Division games as a footballer throughout his career. It was at Cannes, where he met a young Zidane. He didn't catch anything.
Retired in his early thirties and without much money saved, Renard combined his beginnings as a technician on modest equipment with subsistence jobs, some of them not at all glamorous, for example, garbage collector and building cleaner. An image that contrasts radically with the one that is offered to us now. Saudi Arabia is playing today for the pass to the round of 16 (it did so in the 1994 World Cup for the only time) in a match against Mexico and media from the Spanish-American country are conducting surveys to find candidates to replace Tata Martino, on another level if we talk about charisma. Guess who wins? Of course Herve Renard.
The script of the life of this French hustler began to change under the guidance of Claude Le Roy, who marked out a path for him in the style of those who trace the routes of the climber to reach the top of the mountain. Le Roy was the selector among other African countries of Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon and Oman. And he hired Renard as an assistant until he felt safe to pursue a solo career. Africa would be his fetish continent.
His first great success was making Zambia champion of the continent for the first and only time in 2012 after four years of work. Emboldened, he returned to France but failed in both Sochaux (2013) and Lille (2015), in a clear case of maladjustment to his own environment and acclimatization to the foreigner. He then packed up and returned to his room, convinced he was more Robert Redford in Out of Africa (he even has an air) than Louis de Funes in the role of clumsy coach.
He took the reins of the Ivory Coast and the suspicions were confirmed. He made that team the champions of Africa and rightly earned the nickname of the white magician. He signed Morocco later and took her to a final phase of the World Cup (2018) for the first time in 20 years. In 2019, Saudi Arabia had their eye on him and he is doing so well that he has just renewed until 2027.
Arab football has never lacked talent. But yes other virtues. “We have technically good people, but when you go to a World Cup you have to add discipline, something that will be vital for us. If we don't, we won't get the results we want." That reflection made Renard before the World Cup. Through tears and already in Qatar, he recalled who was transcendental in his life to instill in him those values of order, his mother, who these days is present in the stands of Doha at 82 years of age. She must have been a woman of arms to take if her influence had anything to do with the anger that Renard dedicated to his players at halftime in the game against Argentina. "Have you come to take a picture with Messi?" She yelled at them. It was filmed and broadcast on social networks and had all the effectiveness in the world.
The Saudis, as everyone knows, ended up coming back. “We love it when they forget about us and consider us the smallest team. We don't care ”, he had said in the previous one. Nobody paid attention to him.