Sports Features of 2014-07-31

Coach Akwasi Appiah needs Support not Dismissal.

Going to secondary school and growing up in Kumasi in the 1980s, the last Ghanaian soccer personality back then that I would support would never have been Ghana’s current soccer head coach—Akwasi Appiah. This was because Akwasi Appiah, irrespective of his skills, played for Kotoko soccer club; and, regardless of my Ashanti lineage, I have never been an enthusiastic fan of the team (no disrespect, Kotoko is a great team). I was a strong Phobia (Hearts of Oak) fan and still am, if I happened to live Ghana now. I’m Hearts of Oak for life! Back in the day in Kumasi, the only time I would suspend my “hostilities” toward Kotoko players, including Akwasi Appiah, was when they wore the national (Black Stars) jersey. For me, Ghana is larger than Kotoko- or -Hearts Sporting Clubs. So why give this personal context? The effort here is to try to let any fair-minded reader understands that this article is not meant to be a blind support or endorsement of Akwasi Appiah because of some personal relationships or connections. Rather, we’re all trying to look at the Black Stars’ disappointed results in Brazil in holistic and disinterested contexts devoid of personal vendetta and innuendoes. It’s normal to embark on some soul-searching and ask questions (productive?) whenever things failed to meet expectations. However, in the quest for self-introspection we also need to employ the services of common sense and fairness to help us reach well-informed conclusions. More often, it seems like some Ghanaians tend to jump into rush conclusions owing to blind supports based on personal connections such as tribes, local soccer team affiliations, sycophancy, and what have you, at the expense of national interests. Strong adherence to this school of thought is destroying Ghana! Indeed, there may be some Ghanaians who oppose Akwasi Appiah as the Black Stars’ coach based on some well-founded reasons; whereas many others just dislike the fact that Ghana does not have a foreign (or neutral?) coach who has no tribal affinity in the country. The latter group of Ghanaians seems to find it convenient to put all the blame on the head coach and the corrupt Ghanaian soccer officials about the subpar performance of Ghana camp in Brazil. Strangely, though, these people appear to think that the players are somehow above reproach; they are tin-gods, and can’t or should not be held responsible for anything that occurred during the 2014 World Cup event. The issue I have with these folks who parade the preceding line of unexamined thinking is that they ignore the fact that world-class stars such as Maradona, Messi, Ronaldo, Nyemar, Drobga, and the like, do not play for their national teams to make money. Rather, they use their respective national teams’ platforms to advertise their immense skills and talents and in the process enhance their market value at the club levels. That is where the money flows. No doubt almost all Ghanaian players are aware of this reality. This phenomenon explains why all the up and coming players struggle and beg to be selected to represent the country on the national level until some of them become rich and famous and then begin to thumb their noses on the nation that provided them the ladder to climb to success. We all agree in toto that the Ghanaian soccer officials (government, GFA…) must stop their misleading tactics and award the players what is due them in timely manner. On the other hand, too, what happened in Brazil leading to Ghana’s abysmal soccer campaign cannot be taken away completely from the doorsteps of the so-called senior players in the squad. So, as some Ghanaians hastily begin pointing the accusing fingers solely at the technical team led by Akwasi Appiah, they must also realize that it does not matter the tactical efficiency of a coach, if the players are not in the proper psychological mindset all the efforts will come to nothing. The assumption by some Ghanaians that Akwasi Appiah is not a good coach because he could not replicate or better Ghana’s record in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa ignores some notable facts. Aside from being the first Ghanaian-born coach ever to qualify Ghana for the World Cup, undoubtedly Appiah was caught in the crossfire of an intractable problem that had been simmering for years and reaching its breaking point in 2014. In a way, some of the players used whatever legitimate concerns they might have had to intentionally or unintentionally sabotage all the efforts put in place by their coach. Thus, before some of us start lamenting over the so-called incompetency of the current head coach and pontificating about the virtues of foreign coaches let’s dispassionately take a good look at the subtext of the Ghanaian soccer headlines or the problems first. At this point, Akwasi Appiah needs all Ghanaians support to build a formidable team and not removal. Sure, the Ghanaian soccer officials are corrupt and liars to the core, but Muntari and co. were not above blame; they could have reacted differently in the interest of the Ghana and the fans. Give us a break; Ghana has done a lot for these players! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bernard Asubonteng is a blogger and media analyst based in Atlanta, GA. He can be reached at asubonteng@globalpulpit.com or www.globalpulpit.com