Feature: Time up to separate football from politics
When Coach Kwasi Appiah was re-appointed in 2017, he promised to build a formidable Black Stars squad that can last for the next decade. So far, that project seems to be on course as almost all the players in the senior national team were introduced by him.
Visionless people only think of what they stand to benefit today without sparing a thought for tomorrow. However, generational thinkers focus their energies on building a better tomorrow through painful sacrifices today.
While the coach is thinking of development, some Ghanaians are merely seeking for instant gratification without bothering about the future consequences. How I wish Ghanaians would be patient with this innocent-looking man to leave a legacy that we will all be proud of one day.
Though the current Black Stars are endowed with some talents, the plain truth is they were not good enough to win the 2019 Africa Nations Cup (AFCON). And that was evident in their performance at the just-ended tournament in Egypt.
Let’s face the facts as they are and stop blaming Coach Appiah unfairly for the team’s second-round exit. I don’t think Kwesi Appiah could be faulted in that fateful second-round game against Tunisia which saw the South African referee disallowing a clean goal scored by skipper Dede Ayew. Even after that, the Stars fought hard to cancel the Tunisians’ lead to push the game into extra time which they clearly dominated only to lose on penalties. Seriously, I find it difficult to understand why anybody can blame the coach other than our so-called professional players who failed to convert chances that were easier to score than to miss.
Was it not the same coach who made history as the first Ghanaian to qualify Ghana to her third FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014? Contrary to public opinion, I don’t see Kwesi Appiah to be a bad coach. Had it been so, the GFA interview panel which gave him the nod would not have considered him as the best among other expatriate applicants.
I was at the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup and, therefore, saw the quality of the team the same Kwesi Appiah built for that tournament. I strongly believe that but for the appearance fee row which bedevilled the team, Ghana could have caused a stir in Brazil.
My argument is premised on the splendid performance which was displayed by the Black Stars against the eventual champions, Germany, resulting in a 2-2 draw to the surprise of the pundits. But for naivety on the part of some players, Ghana could have caused a major upset at the Mundial by winning that particular game against the same side that humiliated host Brazil 7-1 in that same competition. Even in the opening game against USA, I believe the Ghanaians could have won in the second half but for ill luck. And in their last group match, the Stars were graceful in defeat against the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal side despite the chaos which engulfed the team prior to that match.
Again, was it not the same Kwesi Appiah who masterminded the 6-1 thrashing of the seven-time African champions, Egypt, during the Brazil 2014 qualifiers in Kumasi? So what has suddenly turned him into a villain and a sworn enemy? The earlier we begin to accept and support our own, the better it would be for us as a nation.
It is such negative tendencies towards our fellow Ghanaians that makes expatriates treat us like second class citizens in our own country. We have allowed foreigners to take us for a ride for far too long. The neo-colonialism can only stop if we can learn to accept our own.
To say that Ghanaians have short memory is as stating the obvious. The same people who called for the head of former Black Stars coach, Avram Grant, simply because he came to enjoy the fruits of Kwesi Appiah’s sweat and also didn’t stay in this country to watch the local league and monitor home-based players, are now clamouring for the appointment of another white coach. What a pity!
Have we forgotten so soon how these white coaches connived with their agents to do business with the Black Stars to the detriment of the entire nation? This is not to talk of the way these white coaches disrespected Ghanaians with tongue-in-cheek comments at the least opportunity.
Above all, the records are there to show that no foreign coach has yet won the AFCON title for the nation in the tournament’s 32-year history. In that case, what is the guarantee that any white coach can ever win the AFCON trophy for Ghana.
In any case, why are we behaving as if the world would come to an end if we don’t win the AFCON. As I stated in my previous articles, I believe what we need now is a systematic development of Ghana football from the grassroots to the top over a period of time. If we get the foundation right, the required results will follow naturally. For now, we don’t even have many players who are playing at the top level in Europe, yet we want to win the AFCON.
If Ghanaians will be sincere to themselves, they will readily admit that the quality of our players cannot be compared with the Algerians who won the tournament, for instance. If I may ask, which of our players can match up to the quality of the former African best player, Riyad Mahrez, who was the talisman of the Desert Warriors throughout the tournament?
If Ghana can’t boast of any such inspirational player who can carry the team on his shoulders when it matters most, how do we expect to win the AFCON? And most importantly, Mahrez enjoyed the support of a committed bunch of players whose motivation was to die for their country other than money. After winning the trophy, they now have every right to enjoy the megabucks associated with such achievements.
Once the huge demands made by the Stars players were met by the President of the land, it is only appropriate for them to take a chunk of the blame for failing to fulfil their part of the bargain. Simple. The senior national team is not a place for players to learn the rudiments of the game but to prove what they are capable of doing under the guidance of the technical team.
This is, however, not to say that the Stars coach was perfect during the tournament. No human being under the sun is. I thought some of his substitutions came a bit late. I also noticed that he could have started an out-and-out striker like Asamoah Gyan as the arrowhead, with Jordan Ayew as the supporting striker. This is just a layman’s opinion though.
Again, I thought the timing of the coach’s decision to change his captain at the eleventh hour was wrong and accordingly reacted to it publicly, knowing the effect it could have on the team. At the end of the day, the chicken came home to roost. Take it or leave it, that appointment took something out of the team’s campaign.
Having suffered the same fate before in 1992, I expected Coach Appiah to know better since that unpopular decision to replace Kwasi Appiah with Abedi Pele days to the Senegal ‘92 AFCON haunted the Black Stars for over a decade before Stephen Appiah’s generation finally broke the jinx with the Germany 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification for the first time.
Frankly, I don’t think a change of coach is the best option for now, especially where no local coach is up to the task now.
I fully agree with what Mr Titus Glover, Member of Parliament for Tema East, said in Parliament last Wednesday that it would be unfair to blame Kwesi Appiah for the Black Stars second-round exit. He urged Ghanaians to encourage their fellow Ghanaian to excel instead of condemning him and going for a foreign coach since all four AFCON titles won by Ghana came from local coaches.
Instead of blaming Coach Kwesi Appiah, whoever misled President Nana Akufo-Addo that money could win the AFCON for Ghana should be made to carry the can, as well as the Black Stars Management Committee who failed to manage the players effectively off the pitch.
Going forward, I suggest that we get an effective welfare officer to fill that void so Stephen Appiah could also play his technical coordinator role efficiently.
As I conclude, let me state that I’m not surprised the least surprised about the fallout of the AFCON expenditure which was presented to Parliament by the Sports Minister, Isaac Asiamah. Because I predicted it before the tournament in my piece titled: ‘Money not enough to win AFCON’ that something like that might happen if Ghana fails to win the trophy. Mark my words: nothing positive will come out of the raging AFCON budget brouhaha since this is not the first time this is happening in this country in recent times. It happens in every major tournament. Politicians are all the same!
As I keep saying, we should start thinking about investing those huge sums into developing young talents for the future and stop the wild goose chase for an AFCON title which does not seem to be in sight. The way forward to end this extravagant spending on the Black Stars is to pursue a comprehensive youth development plan.
Let’s use the huge sums of money we are spending on the senior national team to build infrastructure and groom young talents right from the basic schools. Thankfully, God has blessed us with immense football talents nationwide to tap from to better out lot.