Sports Features of 2014-06-28

Should Ghana keep or fire Coach James Akwasi Appiah?

Keep the Coach, Dissolve the Team!

I think GFA should dissolve the national team and start all over again. The coach should be kept and given absolute power to run the team without interferences from the greedy big men within the association and sports ministry. Giving him that much power makes it easier to hold him responsible and accordingly fire him if his performance isn't satisfactory.

Why do I want the team dissolved? Personally, I don't think playing for the national team should be about money; that's what club football is there for. Club football is run on a business model and that's why the players get paid a lot by their clubs, so the national team should be about pride and serving their country, not money. If they can't make that sacrifice, they don't belong in the national team. Simple.

Have we not noticed how the only time Ghanaian players play with their hearts and passion when they play for the national team is when they don't have any international contracts? The local players use such platforms to give their all to convince available international scouts of their talents and skills. But the same people go haywire when they return home from their international clubs for national assignments. On this ground, notwithstanding the results, I think it's best to play with local players. Not only are they more dedicated and easily manageable, but the money the state gives them for their sacrifices can be paid in cedis and also retained in Ghana.

Now you may argue that since our local players could be bought by foreign scouts that observe their performances, our national team would end up lacking stability as we will have to always substitute the team with new local talents. That doesn't exactly have to be the case. Our returning players knowing that we have hundreds of local talents that could easily fill their shoes, will become more circumspect on how they relate to the national team. This also gives the sports ministry and the GFA the incentive to invest in our local league and youth development rather than begging foreign players with conflicting loyalties to represent Ghana. And it's investing in the local leagues and youth development that creates jobs and give thousands of young boys and girls hope for the future.

I don't deny that other national associations perhaps pay their players more than Ghana does and others represent their national sides for free. But in relation to our national income per capita and the level of development, what we give to our national players when some Premier League players due to lack of investment and sponsorship in the league earn less than 400 cedis is absolutely, shamefully ridiculous. And even worse is when local talents unless they play for underachieving foreign clubs cannot dream of wearing their national jerseys with pride. Ironically, any time, Ghana won any cup--senior or junior event-- we did so mainly with local representatives.

When a German, for example, plays for the national team, he considers it the highest honor in his football career. Money is never an issue nor motivation because the big money is made at the club side. But when most Ghanaians (like elsewhere in Africa) play for Mama Ghana, they think they are doing Mama Ghana a favor and demand presidential treatment before they partially commit to her needs. That kind of mentality never wins important games at the biggest football events. As indicated above, the only time Ghanaian players play with absolute loyalty and passion is at the junior level when they use such tournaments as bait to gain better offers outside. And once they make it to Europe, start dating models, their loyalty ceases.

Treating these 23 players who earn millions of dollars in foreign countries without paying anything to Ghana like demigods, is detrimental to development of local football and it's time to rethink what's best for us as a nation and not what a few corrupt officials and greedy 23 men could benefit from this institutionalized madness.

In sum, we must keep the coach, give him the room to make autonomous decisions, let go of our vain glory of instant gratification of winning at all cost using undisciplined big names, and work closely with the local teams to develop talents for the national team. Even if we gave the team to the best coach in the world and kept the same corrupt system and can't field players whose love for money becomes a secondary matter when wearing the national colors, this theater will be repeated whenever it comes to national assignments. Without an improved local league, we will never get anywhere on the world stage of football. We need a structure that allows us develop our football across generations if we are to avoid this disgraceful act again.

Dominic Mensah.