KAMPALA, Uganda, Dec 12 – In previous editions of the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup, anyone pooled against Djibouti would always look at that fixture as one to boost their goal difference as it was as sure as daylight that anyone would beat them by whichever number of goals they wished.
But at the 2019 edition, the Shoremen of the Red sea have shown that they are an improved side after picking four points in two matches and are now on the brink of making a first ever semi-final.
A point against Somalia and a shock win against Burundi have put them only one win away from a last four slot and if they beat third placed Eritrea on Friday, then they are all sure of getting into the semis.
“We have a final against Eritrea and we will go all out to try and win and achieve an objective,” said Julien Mette, the 37-year old French tactician who has been leading the slow but sure revolution of Djibouti football since he joined in June.
And it is not just at the senior challenge that they have shown their mettle, but they have qualified for the first time ever to compete in the group stages of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
In total, Mette has overseen 10 matches already, winning four, drawing a similar number and losing two.
The Frenchman, who has never played competitive football before has disclosed to Capital Sport the raft of changes he made to ensure the team becomes better.
“In Europe where I studied for almost 13 years, diet is very important. One of the first things I did is forbid some foods; soda is forbidden in our team, white sugar, no sausages or processed foods, no red meat, only fish and chicken. We are very tough and I put a lot of discipline in the diet,” the tactician stated.
“We have added a bit more on the carbohydrates. We eat of pasta, rice and a lot of fruits and water,” he added.
It has been evident in their two matches so far, especially looking at their endurance over 90 minutes against a physical team like Burundi. On top of the diet, the tactician stated that he had to also do lots of mind training.
“We know that we are not strong and we don’t have lots of muscles and it will take years to build that. We have worked on how we can make runs, sprints and press for 90 minutes. My training is really tough. The first thing I also did was change their mentality. You know if the mind says the muscle can’t do it then it can’t. But if we can change the mentality we can change the player,” he added.
Having built up a team mostly made up of players who are 23 years and under, Mette sees a bright future for Djibouti. He says they will have a realistic chance to fight for qualification to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.