Introducing Florent Ibenge
You’d be forgiven if the highest profile thing you’ve heard or read about Jean Florent Ibenge before last year was being the ‘interim coach’ of Shanghai Shenhua alongside ‘player coach’ Nicolas Anelka.
The year saw the 53-year-old lead Vita club to the finals of the CAF Champions League, poised to end the club’s 41-year wait for the prized trophy of African club football. Sadly, they lost to ES Setif of Algeria on the away-goal rule. His exploits saw him nominated for the CAF coach of the year awards where he lost again to the coach of ES Setif, Kheireddine Madoui.
Born in Congo but raised in France, Ibenge was handed the reins in August 2014, just three weeks before the start of the AFCON qualifiers. He was previously an assistant under Claude Le Roy. He led the team to a third place finish in the qualifiers behind Cameroon and the Cote d’Ivoire, garnering nine points which was just enough to ensure DR Congo qualified for the AFCON as the best third-placed team.
His playing days were peripatetic, he played lower league football in Belgium, France and Germany.
The UEFA licensed tactician prefers a 4-4-2 but could also opt for the 4-2-3-1 dependent on the opposition and the players available. The 4-4-2 allows the solid-based pivot with the creative play incumbent on the wings. It also exploits the aerial prowess and presence of both strikers up top with the wingers able to hit crosses.
Ibenge, a qualified economist, could be the one to lead the team as DR Congo (formerly Zaire) to a better showing than the third place finish in 1998, maybe he could lead the Leopards to a third AFCON title (they won two as Zaire 1968, 1974) and maybe end the 41-year wait.