2021 AFCON: 40 years and a mule

Black Stars 3 Ghana has not won the AFCON since 1982

Mon, 17 Jan 2022 Source: Nana Kwaku Agyemang

The fiasco in 2014 FIFA World Cup will never vanish from the minds of the discerning football supporter even though it is an episode in our football history we would all like to forget.

We were the official “money launderers” of the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil that year. The memories of our Senior National Team the Ghana Black Stars that held our country for ransom over appearance fees and the images that $100,000 kiss was enough to inform us that there was little to no pride in wearing the national jersey it was all about the money!

What we didn’t see was the jubilation of the Ghana Black Star handlers as they received their slice of the cake too. They had built themselves into the appearance fee despite the fact that they would not be kicking anything and they had made sure that whenever the players received money they would too.

For the ordinary me and you standing on the roadside wearing our Black Star jerseys and waving our national flags the scene of the money being transported through the streets of Brazil in an armored truck escorted by armed Police as the headline news in Brazil left us puking all over ourselves in disbelief.

Our participation itself was nothing to write home about. One point out of a possible nine was all we had to show. The only real beneficiaries were politicians, wives, girlfriends and close friends and how could I forget our potbellied sports journalists that constantly fed us with false reports of unity within the Black Stars camp!

The Coach was relieved of his post and the entire Technical Team too. It was only management that survived the Tsunami that was on the horizon and yet to hit our shores in the form of a Public Inquiry into our public humiliation. The revelations from that Inquiry witnessed the outright physical withdrawal of support for our national team, the love had gone!

A few people had even lost their lives that year because of such a dismal performance on all levels and the revelations of the Inquiry. The recommendations from the Public inquiry were debated far and wide but ended up being ignored. The “football people were a law unto themselves, the “untouchables!”

In the eight years that have followed with regards the progress of the Ghana Black Stars nothing much has changed to be honest. No matter who the Coach is the team struggles and that is because the fundamentals are weak and the center can never hold on that basis alone. We failed to make the FIFA 2018 World Cup and that may have been a blessing in disguise because politicians had no options available to use the Black Stars as a way of syphoning from the public purse and because of that we did not lose any money! Amen!

The FIFA 2022 World Cup on paper appeared to be a stroll through the park for the Ghana Black Stars on paper; I mean on paper but in reality, we are struggling to keep our head above the water.

Government have already announced that they will need no less than $25,000,000 for the Stars to participate in the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the 2022 World Cup. Ghana always has a budget that far exceeds that of better footballing nations especially those in Europe and South America, who really have more than a chance of winning the Cup!

This time around they have appealed for some support from Corporate Ghana to help them raise that capital but this plea has fallen on deaf ears. I have no idea of what they have raised so far suffice to say it has not reached double figures and is unlikely to do so. Government will have to dig deep to pull those funds out of the government coffers at a time when it is not financially prudent to do so.

Having qualified for the 2021 AFCON and reappointing Milovan Rajavec to take charge of the team once again government declared its target of winning the AFCON and qualifying for the Semi Final of the FIFA World Cup and nothing less as what would be a true reflection of where Ghana should be.

The only thing they left out of the equation was the fact that Ghana would not be participating in these competitions on their own but with better countries who had better teams that were well organized, polished and competition ready unlike the Stars!

Names don’t play games and our so-called big names have paved the way for us to concede goals as opposed for us to score goals and win matches. The second coming of Milovan has done us no favors either although he came highly recommended by the special committee that was charged to appoint a coach in the shortest possible time.

The truth is they all opted for the cheapest Coach because they had no choice as Government holds the purse strings but where they really messed up was by telling the fans that this coach was not a coach of trial and error, this was a coach who had achieved with Ghana before and would do so again.

They bought into the politics of winning the AFCON and persuaded the fans to do same to their peril, knowing that we did not stand a chance! One can always say preparation was legitimately not the best this time round because of the Covid 19 factor but this was also exacerbated by CAF who gave its blessing to African payers reporting to camp much later than they should and for countries that depended on foreign based players this was a catastrophe.

Having said that Ghana lost its friendly match against Algeria and we were told this was a wakeup call. Ghana then went on to lose against Morocco in their opening match of the 2021 AFCON we were once again told it is a wakeup call and not even with an inspiring few words of encouragement from former Ghana Black Stars defender Anthony Baffoe could they even seal their first win against Gabon and you guessed it this is also we are being told a wakeup call. Just when will the Ghana Black Stars actually wake up???

With one game left to play against Comoros and with only one point to our name so far, they would like us to believe they will defeat Comoros but we are not sure that is even possible judging by the non-performances to date.

Qualifying to the next stage as one of the best 3rd placed teams is the only opportunity for progression and even with that staring us in the face players and management still insist they are going to lift the trophy. If they did that would be like so surreal but it’s not going to happen!

We have ended up with a group of hapless professional footballers that cannot quite yet be called a team. We only travelled to the tournament with one striker and that was Maxwell Abbey Quaye of Accra Gt Olympics SC, the rest of the playing body were made up of Goalkeepers, Defenders and Midfielders.

So, no communication, no cohesion, no tactics, no game plan just individuals who lack a lot of confidence the right motivation and who should be directed towards the goal of winning that AFCON trophy for the first time in 40 years in earnest and not just through theatrical rhetoric! The Coach has literally passed his sell by date and the two Assistants and the Goalkeepers Coach add no value at all to the exercise and for some of the players called this should be their last national appearance!

Instead of exerting ourselves to aim for the ultimate, time should be taken to build a team for the future. We do not have to even think about winning any trophies and in all honesty if we do not go to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar it will be no big deal but rather be in our best interest.

It will take the pressure off whoever is the coach so that we can nurture and develop the new players that are and should be coming into the fold. We must get the fundamentals right with regards the philosophy, style and pattern of play and this should be a philosophy that runs through all the National team’s male and female and not just the Senior National team.

Science must be applied for the selection of potential team players. We must get used to analyzing data as well as monitoring player performance ourselves too. We cannot afford to just be doing business with some of those selected every player selected must be worth his salt and as such afforded playing time as and when required.

Inviting players that are currently injured must be a thing of the past. Its laughable that we spend so much time trying to reassure our fans that Mohammed Kudus will surface and play in this competition when we know the facts are that this is an impossibility!

Why was he included in the first place? If the Senior National team does not seem to be or even look attractive foreign based players will continue to turn down the opportunity to feature for Ghana without a second thought! Even with foreign based coaches it’s an issue.

I mean just imagine Otto Addo only accepted the appointment as an Assistant Coach on a part time basis and when it came to choosing if he would rather be in Cameroon at the AFCON with Ghana or remain in Germany with his club he chose Germany hands down! That should tell you something.

I am extremely saddened by the way in which the local players have been dealt with. Since we had no intention of using them why disturb them in the first place. Would these same players make up the local Black Stars if that team would be called to camp anytime soon?

It is disgraceful, simply because we do not have any system in place that acts as a transit point for promotion from one national team to the other. For example, the only player that has survived the Ghana’s 2017 U’17 FIFA World Cup bid is Mohammed Kudus. What happened to the rest of that team? They were good enough at that level then so where are they now?

If we do not accept that we have a problem we won’t be able to compete anymore as is the case now. We will always be depending on prayers. We must to start all over again. What is our philosophy as a once footballing nation? Rebuilding starts once we are able to answer that simple question.

Source: Nana Kwaku Agyemang
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