Sports Features of 2013-12-18

Technical head for Kwasi Appiah - To be or not to be

After that memorable ceremonial burial of Nelson Madiba Mandela, an icon of a politician and ex-president of South Africa last Sunday, our ears are still being jarred with all sorts of commendations bordering on the killer assignment ahead of the Black Stars in the forthcoming World Cup tournament in almighty Brazil.

All the 32 participating nations are working round the clock, with none relaxing with the least of complacency. The gigantic aim, all over the world is the winning of the ultimate, and in this unpredictable exercise, it looks certain that the winner will need something extra and certain phenomenal powers.

The host, Brazil, have indicated from time immemorial that the next time they host the event everybody must bet on them with confidence: It is simply "host and win", no challenger!

Yes, the five times winners of the World Cup who won their last cup in 2002 in the Korea/Japan event have pledged to their home fanatics to expect nothing but the Cup. Incidentally, the outstanding soccer power have that capacity to do it; after all they won all their four World Cups outside their borders - Sweden in 1958, Chile in 1962, Mexico in 1970, USA in 1994 and Japan/Korea in 2002.

So far every Brazilian sees himself or herself as a stakeholder in the country that picks its name from the Brazilian Highlands, and the Local Organising Committee which is battling with some unfortunate incidents such as protests and deaths over the construction of the stadia for the games, has come out to assure the incomparable nation in South America that there is no way they can afford to embarrass the nation, remembering what they went through when they hosted the event in 1950.

That was the year everything went haywire and the cup itself mysteriously went to Uruguay. But it was a big lesson, and Brazil realised they needed to prepare far better for any subsequent tournament, swearing that defeat will never happen again. Right now, the World Cup is becoming tenaciously complex, and all coaches are being tested to the last breath. Is this hard way of winning the Cup the reason why some ardent followers of the Black Stars are advocating the appointment of someone with a magic wand and a secret enigmatic powers to serve as an attache to Coach Kwasi Appiah as a technical director?

In fact, I wonder if some of the arguments that go to support that proposition make any sense at all. So far, the assessment of the performance level of the first local coach to lead the Black Stars to the World Cup shows a remarkable improvement as the team progresses. The Black Stars have reached their zenith, and with a little motivation and good preparation in all departments, they can perform creditably.

What again shall be needed to prove a point after the unbelievable success in the qualifiers and the play-off during which the Pharaohs of Egypt were shown the exit by an incredible score of 7-3 aggregate? Can we say that is not enough sign of a good coach to lead the team to Brazil?

The coach has the guts to tackle the dreadful assignment of meeting the United States of America who have vowed to revenge this time around after losing to the Stars in Germany and South Africa in 2006 and 2010 respectively. The other day on a programme on the "Asempa FM", a caller was quick in describing the Black Stars-United States meeting at the group stage as a sure sign of destiny. He was surprised at the possibility of the draw lining up the two teams once again in 2014 for the third time running.

The first meeting was under Coach Ratomir Dujkovic and the next one under Goran Stevanovic, both Serbians, and is it vitally important to find out whether the Serbians have that special capacity to grip the Americans, and for that reason it will be essential to get someone from that terrain to help Kwasi Appiah to do-the-do? Incidentally, there are two more formidable and decisive assignments that require exceptional character to overcome in the same group.

Arguably, someone might be tempted to compare USA and the other nations in Group G - Germany and Portugal - who are super-powers in European football whose conquest will require extra phenomenal strategy and craftsmanship. I personally wonder whether it is these assignments that have put fear into some people.

It took the Black Stars a whole 36 years after FIFA granted a dispensation to Africa to have one slot down to the time when Africa is privileged to have five slots before their qualification. And during those days, we saw the effort of white coaches such as Josef Ember, Ali Kanyas, Otto Pfister, Burkhard Ziese, Ralf Zumdick, Milan Zivadinovic, Mariano Barreto and others who tried without success to qualify the national senior team to their dream land.

For now, I have a strong belief that all we need is a competent local coach who has the nation dearly at heart, with some good spies who will go out there to check some secret plans of their imminent challengers. There are senior and junior coaches quite capable of doing that efficiently, and success will be clinched.

Perhaps, what our own Kwasi Appiah will need most is our continuous prayers to Brazil and back.

Good luck!