Controversial Courbis comes to Niger's rescue

30 January 2012 08:17

Rolland Courbis, who has assumed command of the Niger team at the Africa Cup of Nations, is a colourful character with a rich history both on and off the pitch.

The Marseille-born son of a policeman was hired by Niger in the role of consultant in December but assumed total control from coach Harouna Doula after Niger's shambolic opening game against Gabon.

The forthright and controversial 58-year-old has been calling the shots since, but on Monday he disclosed he would be returning to his 'day job' as a radio broadcaster after Tuesday's final Cup run out against Morocco.

Courbis (given two ll's in his christian name by his father "so he can fly higher") was a libero in his playing days. He was placed on Marseille's books at the age of 13, lying to the club's coach Mario Zatelli that he was no longer needed at school.

He went on to play for Monaco, with whom he won two French league titles to add to the one he secured with Marseille, and the French Cup.

Among the dozen clubs he managed once his playing career ended in 1985 were Toulon, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Ajaccio and his hometown side Marseille.

His 1997-1999 spell at the Velodrome included a memorable defeat of the then reigning European champions Manchester United.

He has had several brushes with France's judicial system.

In 1991 he was arrested and placed in police custody for 98 days and later given a three year suspended prison sentence for fraud during his time at Toulon.

Courbis was in trouble with the police again relating to transfer bungs at Marseille.

Found guilty he was sentenced to two years in prison, but after a long running appeal process he avoided having to serve most of that time.

In the 1990s his love of roulette resulted in him being implicated in a plot of cheating one casino on the French Cote d'Azur.

He was found guilty and banned from every casino in France, only for the sanction to be overturned on appeal.

Courbis is fortunate to even be in Gabon.

In 1996 gunmen attacked him and Dominique Rutily, the president of French club Calvi, as they were leaving a game in Toulon over a reported financial dispute.

The 34-year-old Rutily was killed and Courbis required surgery after being shot in the back.

Courbis, fit and full of vigour 16 years on at his first Nations Cup, said he took control of the Niger team after they were swept aside by co-hosts Gabon 2-0 in their opening match.

The newcomers put up a more solid display next time out last Friday in the 2-1 loss to Tunisia, and now face Morocco hoping to restore their pride and pick up their first ever Cup points.

Courbis, who was greeted by playful cries of "here comes the team manager" from the Niger journalists attending the press conference, promised his side were taking this 'dead' tie seriously.

"Unfortunately we have no chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals," he said.

"But in spite of that we have obligations, professional obligations vis a vis the Niger team and fans to finish this Nations Cup honourably.

"The team must use this game to continue to progress."

Reflecting on the Gabon debacle which he clearly laid at the door of Doula Courbis added: "We improved against Tunisia but to be frank it wasn't complicated to improve from the Gabon performance.

"Our elimination started against Gabon. we deserved our defeat."

Source: AFP