Nancy 'proud but hot happy' to be first black coach to win MLS Cup

Nancy 'proud but hot happy' to be first black coach to win MLS Cup

© AFP 2022
December 10, 2023 at 1:15 AM
Columbus Crew coach Wilfried Nancy became the first black coach to win MLS Cup thanks to Saturday's win over Los Angeles FC.
Columbus Crew coach Wilfried Nancy became the first black coach to win MLS Cup thanks to Saturday's win over Los Angeles FC.. Photo: Maddie Meyer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/Getty Images via AFP
Source: AFP

Frenchman Wilfried Nancy became the first black coach to win the Major League Soccer title after his Columbus Crew beat Los Angeles FC on Saturday but said the moment held mixed emotions for him.

The 46-year-old former French lower division player won his first major title at the end of his first campaign in Columbus after joining them a year ago from Montreal.

While there have been several black coaches in recent years in MLS, including his better known compatriots Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, Nancy is currently the only black coach with an MLS club.

Asked about the significance of the achievement, Nancy said: "Obviously I'm happy. I'm so proud of that. Because there is a lot of work behind that. There is a lot of courage also behind that.

"But I'm not happy at the same time. Because this is not normal. Simple as that. So I'm proud to represent, yes, to be the only black. But I'm not happy with that. So this is something that has to change. I know that MLS tries to do that but this is not only in MLS," he added.

MLS has a number of policy initiatives in place aimed to increase opportunities for black coaches, which Nancy acknowledged. But he said the lack of representation was an issue well beyond the North American league.

"This is everywhere. And there is competency but after that, I'm not happy with that," he said.

Nancy has won plaudits for the way his Crew team have performed this season with an eye-catching, possession-based style of football and he was delighted that his team were able to beat LAFC with that approach.

"I am so happy because the most important for me was not to win, it was to be ourselves and my players did it.

"That's why we had the possibility and that's why we won so I'm really proud of that as a coach. Yes. we can talk about tactics. We can talk about a lot of things but the performance that we had tonight was spot on," he said.

Nancy took an unorthodox route towards becoming a head coach -- after the last stop of his lower division journey in France concluded in Orleans, he ended his playing career in Canada, with the University of Quebec. While there he began coaching at a private French language school and eventually joined Montreal's youth coaching staff.

He looked close to being overwhelmed by emotion at the final whistle and said he had reflected on his journey, the support of his family and how much it meant to him.

"When the whistle blew, I got emotional because I thought about all these kind of things. My family, my wife, my kids, they came here also for the project. But also it's a life project," he said.

Not by luck

"The way I am as a person, I need to balance my life to be good on the pitch. So that's why I thought about my wife, my family, and my close friends, and also the organization. Because the club has been (great, but) I knew that, that's why I'm here. This is not by luck that we are here tonight," added the Frenchman.

Nancy said there was no question of him struggling with new, high expectations to bring more success to Columbus, after securing the club's third MLS Cup.

"The way I see things in my life is... We want to compete all the time. So I'm going to compete next year.

"The idea was to be better as a coach, because I know that it's going to be more difficult. The idea is all the time to get better, like my players. So yes, we're going to compete.

"I don't know if we're going to win or not. But what I know is, with my staff, we're going to try to put everything to help the player to be better. And after that, we'll see if we're going to be able to win or not," he said.

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© AFP 2022 photo
© AFP 2022