Seychelles (red) versus in the preliminary round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers in 2019. (Seychelles Nation)
Seychelles’ men’s national football team will face Ivory Coast in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on November 17 in Abidjan and the caretaker head coach has expressed disappointment at not having his strongest team.
Coach Ralph Jean-Louis told reporters recently that local clubs are not cooperating in the release of players called to join the national selection.
“We had invited over 63 players to the pre-selection, and we had people pull out for various reasons, which we have accepted,” said coach Jean-Louis.
He said that the reasons players are not joining the selection ranged from them not wanting to do all the tests that the committee has put in place while others were due to their commitments with their club among others.
“I am also disappointed that some clubs have not supported us. We had asked that the teams agree to postpone the matches that are scheduled to be played this weekend, to allow us to have a few test matches, but they did not agree to do so,” said Jean-Louis.
He said that the clubs should put the country first and contribute to the growth of the national team.
The Seychelles team is in group F for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and will play 10 matches, five home and five away. The other teams in the group are Gabon, Kenya, The Gambia, and Burundi.
Ivory Coast is a formidable opponent and among the biggest teams, the Seychelles side has faced. The national selection has previously played against Tunisia, South Africa, Algeria and Nigeria.
The second game for the island nation against Kenya on November 20 is supposed to be played on home soil, but because Seychelles’ Unity Stadium has still not been approved to host these matches, the match will take place in the Ivory Coast’s Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium.
“Playing our home game in Abidjan rather than Mauritius this time, will remove the travelling time for our players and allow them one more day of rest before going back to preparations for the match,” said Jean-Louis.
Seychelles is ranked 195th in the world and having lost their last five matches, the team will be facing a tough task as it takes on some well-known international players.
“We do not have our strongest possible squad available at the moment, due to the issues faced, but we know this is a big match and I will be able to better set our expectations, after playing our test match on Sunday and making my final player selection,” Jean-Louis added.
The finals of the 2026 FIFA World Cup will take place in Canada, USA, and Mexico which are jointly hosting the competition.
While the Seychelles team is under a caretaker committee for the upcoming games, there have been other changes made, with former France and Democratic Republic of Congo youth international, Riffi Mandanda, helping the team as goalkeeper coach.
The brother of French world cup-winning goalkeeper, Steve Mandanda, Riffi has been brought in to help in an area where coach Jean-Louis says Seychelles lacks expertise.
After facing Kenya, Seychelles’ next match will be in June 2024 and it is expected that a new coaching team will be in place by then and that the necessary renovations to the Unity Stadium will be completed and ready to host home matches.