Sports Features of 2014-08-12

Kwasi Appiah needs cultural sensitivity education

Ghana Black Stars coach’s (Kwasi Appiah - KA) decision to indefinitely suspend Kevin Prince Boateng (KPB), Sulley Aliu Muntari (SAM) and invariably Michael Essien (ME) for their infractions during the World Cup in Brazil ’14 should be reviewed along the line of Cultural Sensitivity. They should not be sacrificed for the poor performance of the Black Stars in the said tournament.

Ghana cannot expect foreign born individuals to be part of the Black Stars without our coaches being sensitive to their cultural background. They should not be expected to adopt our concept of discipline overnight. It has to be a two-way street. Possibly if KA had some knowledge about KPB’s upbringing, he would have interpreted and dealt with his behavior from that perspective. On the other hand, KPB would also have reacted differently if he knew what was expected of him as a Ghanaian in that situation.

The average Ghanaian is considered disciplined when in the face of managerial (Elderly) provocation and incompetence, he remains quiet. Any form of reaction to such behavior is regarded as indiscipline. Elders are presumed to be embodiment of wisdom and knowledge with some believed to be tin gods to be worshiped. Others have inflated egos and find it difficult to be criticized by someone who in their estimation should not even come near let alone point out their shortcomings to them. Some hate to be confronted with the truth and thus end up exposing their weaknesses and incompetence in public. Would this explain why some people believe that we major in mediocrity?

One disturbing aspect of our concept of discipline is the absolute lack of respect often exhibited by the elderly towards the complaints and concerns normally raised by those they are supposed to lead and protect. More often than not they are ignored. The results from such behavior is captured by Adambathia Larsen Kwaresey (ALK), Black Stars Goalkeeper, when he said “the incidents that occurred happened because the players had been pushed to their limits and did not hold suspended team mates Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince Boateng responsible. "Things like that happen when it gets to that point. At the end you get fed up. I understand their reaction after what we experienced.”

Another result from the elderly’s failure to address group concerns is the unexpected strikes, demonstrations and destruction of property as usually exhibited through high school students. Incidentally, the elderly responds to such behavior by singling out ring leaders for punishment and again ignore the issues raised. This is what has happened to KPB, SAM and ME. Consequently, the Black Stars took their frustration to the field and masked their intentions with a sub-standard game reenacting Nana Ampadu’s song ‘saa de? a ?twee mpr?’ - damn the consequences. No wonder the Black Stars lost their match with Portugal by 2 - 1

The wholesale transposition of our concept of discipline to others makes it difficult for us to understand the behavior of persons born and bred outside Ghana. The upbringing of children in European countries, Canada and the United States differ completely from that of Ghana. Children from these countries are encouraged to express their view points and opinions freely, openly and as in New York “in your face” The elders treat the children’s statements, opinions and requests with utmost respect. They also keep to their promises. They engage them in conversations and exchange of ideas in solving problems. They rarely dictate to them.

KPB was born and raised in Germany and probably, until he chose to play football for Ghana, had never set foot outside Europe. His alleged indiscipline at the Black Stars camp for the world cup may just be a cultural thing which might have eluded the uninitiated Ghanaian elder who just sent him home. KA assigned bad intent to otherwise harmless action. It had been reported that KA promised to make KPB one of the leading members of the team for the tournament. KA did not keep to his word and made KPB a substitute in the second half of the match between Ghana and the US at the World Cup ’14 in Brazil. KPB got hurt yet KA never made any attempt to explain to him the rational for that decision let alone apologize to and also calm him down. KPB would not understand why his coach would lie to him. He could not recover from the shock and disappointment he had from this let down.

To a Ghanaian, KA’s failure to keep to his promise would be nothing but in the case of KPB it was something very serious hence his statement that “he was benched as foolish people played stupid football” As a German, KPB needed an explanation (with apology) to be very comfortable and be assured of management’s trust in him.

It could be seen that based on what he is used to, KPB was disrespected by KA by ignoring his (KPB) feelings. KPB thus asked unexpected question; not as an offensive attempt because he could not think of another way to represent the issue to KA. As a Ghanaian elder, KA also believed that KPB did not recognize him as a leader, deflated his ego by confronting and verbally challenged his authority and also accused him (KA) as a liar. KA ascribed intent to unintentional action. Each of them interpreted the situation from perceived cultural threat. If each knew the cultural implications involved, they would understand and this whole unfortunate incident would not have occurred.

KA’s decision to question both KPB and SAM when the two burst into laughter possibly in his presence was too “Ghanaian,” feminine and infantile. How could an adult “poke nose” into others play and conclude that the laughter was targeted at him. What was the source? Has it occurred to someone to question KPB’s insistence that he did nothing wrong? Cultural background is reflected in seemingly innocuous statement. KA should be reminded that the present crop of the Black Stars plays at very high professional levels and should therefore be treated as such. KPB and SAM should have been given the benefit of doubt.

The story is told of a Ghanaian trained teacher who found herself on the wrong side of the law in New York City just for doing her job. She taught English Language in a middle school class. She was in class one day when she was invited into the Principal’s office where two police officers handed over to her a summons for her to appear before a court of competent jurisdiction to answer some charges proffered against her. On the advice of her lawyer she showed up in court in the company of a British diplomat who successfully defended her on grounds that she spoke “British” instead of “American” English. Her offence was that instead of the word “period” for a punctuation mark, she said “full stop” A parent filed charges against her that she had verbally assaulted his son by calling him “a fool”, a word that has some slavery related connotations. This incident led to some changes accommodating immigrant teachers in the school system.

Black Stars goalkeeper, ALK, is considering taking a break from the national team because, according to him, performance and form does not decide who plays. "It’s no point travelling to Ghana if its other things than how you perform that decides if you play or not. It was hopeless. We had a match meeting four or five hours before the game. At that meeting I was in the team. Then it was a little bit back and forward. And suddenly I was out. I asked why. The coach didn’t look me in the eyes. He just looked down and said sorry. Then I understood that it probably wasn’t his choice”. He told Norwegian news outlet Verdens Gang.

Has somebody verified the implications of his statement? Or just like other scenarios he is just a frustrated individual. Have we found out why Ghanaians elsewhere find it easy to fit into other systems and go on to perform exceedingly well but same cannot be said about others into our system? Probably it is contained in what an American journalist, John Stossel, told an Indian Minister of Trade and Industries that “it is because of your stupid policies.”

There should be a careful examination of our concept of discipline along the lines of present day technological and professional development for the Black Stars to be very competitive. We need to compare and contrast why European countries like Germany, France, Italy, Spain, France and England have won and continue to do well at the World Cup why the best we have achieved is just at the quarterfinal final stage. Why did it take Ghana so many years before showing up at the World Cup for the first time in 2006? How come we performed better in both 2006 and 2010 but had to bow out in 2014 in disgrace and tartars?

There may be other reasons but our concept of discipline should not be one of them. It should be reviewed to encompass cultural sensitivity to make it possible for all players assembled for the Black Stars feel respected and more than welcome. The first step is for KA to call KPB, SAM and ME back into camp and confront his “demons” by holding a no holds barred meeting with them. Any attempt by KA to hold on to his “hurt” by KPB will not be manly but counterproductive and a curse that would hunt him for years.

Second, KA should appraise his relationship with the Black Stars from one of these perspectives - dealing with his ego or winning tournaments. If it is about his ego, then he should send the players home at the least provocation. On the other hand if it is about making a name by winning tournaments, then he should forget about his ego and deal with each recalcitrant behavior with the firmness it deserves and move on. He should set rules and regulation and stick to them without fear or favor. He cannot have it both ways. If teaches sent home insulting students, some very prominent personnel in our society would not have had the chance to pursue their chosen professions for which the country is now benefiting.

KA should re-evaluate his own capabilities in line with what has been said. He should re-consider the indefinite suspension of KPB and his colleague(s). It would not be in his interest to end their international careers prematurely. Posterity would not forgive him. A lot of Ghanaians are showing up in various leagues around the world. Each of them is a potential striker for the Black Stars. They and their parents are watching how KPB, ALK and others are being treated for playing for the national team. If we begin to treat them as “boys” who need to be disciplined in our terms, Ghana would be the biggest loser.

(NB: In this write up I considered both SAM and ME as victims of collateral damage.)


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