Sports Features of Wed, 27 Sep 201715
Kwesi Appiah opens can of worms with new calls
Ghanaian fans urged Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah to act after a poor World Cup qualifier against Congo in Kumasi -- and so he did with a squad for the next round of qualifiers that is heavy on big-name omissions and surprise inclusions.
In typical Ghana football fashion, Appiah simply released the squad without much explanation for his choices, but that release spoke loudly about his thinking.
The Black Stars boss has left out the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan, not called up Jeffery Schlupp of Crystal Palace or regular defender John Boye, and continued to ignore the case for Emmanuel Agyemang Badu or Mubarak Wakasso in midfield.
The Wakasso and Badu omissions are curious because both players are regulars at club level and generally good in a Black Stars shirt, but the real talking point will revolve around the Ayew brothers.
The pair, like the rest of the Ghana team, endured a difficult game against Congo in Kumasi, with Andre booed as he was substituted. The two then pulled out of the return trip to Brazzaville, with Andre citing an injury and Jordan informing the team that he had a stomach upset. Ghana went on to win 5-1 and the following weekend, the brothers were back in action for club sides West Ham and Swansea City.
Those pullouts followed a previous decision by the pair to withdraw from Ghana's tour of the USA, saying their clubs objected because it didn't fall within the FIFA international window. Appiah has refused to discuss the subject, but he has been unhappy about their attitudes. And whatever the right and wrong of his latest squad selection, it will simply resurrect a feud in Ghana football that refuses to go away - the Ayews versus Kwesi Appiah.
The pair retired from international football in 2013 after Appiah left Jordan out of his Nations Cup squad, before omitting Andre after a disagreement over his reporting time to camp. They later returned that same year before playing under Appiah at the 2014 World Cup.
There are those convinced that the tense relationship between the brothers and the Black Stars boss is rooted in the history between their father, three-time African Player of the Year Abedi Pele, and Appiah. Twenty-five years after Ghana football was consumed by a supposed conflict between then-Black Stars stalwarts Pele and Appiah over the captaincy, we are back to square one along the same subject lines.
That rivalry stems from a decision all those years ago to strip Black Stars captain Appiah of his role and hand it to Pele, then the biggest name in Ghana football and thriving with Olympique Marseille in Europe. Since then the narrative in Ghana has been that that decision caused divisions in the team which eventually lost the Nations Cup final to Ivory Coast on penalties.
Appiah has been adamant his decisions as Black Stars coach have not been influenced by that history. Jordan has looked in good form for Swansea this season, but Andre has largely struggled. You could argue that Asamoah Gyan has blown cold too, but he has been called up again.
What Appiah will be desperate for is that the conversation focuses on the positives of his call-ups -- and there are a few. Isaac Twum, who captained the Black Stars B to WAFU glory last weekend, has been rewarded with a call-up, as has Vincent Atinga, a key cog in their defensive unit.
Kassim Nuhu has been rewarded for his consistency with a call-up, while Appiah has not hung out Joseph Attamah after his error-laden debut against Congo in Kumasi.
The Black Stars boss will be hoping the result backs up the calls.