Kwasi Appiah will take us nowhere

Kwesi Appiah Cape Black Stars Coach, Kwesi Appiah

Tue, 6 Nov 2018 Source: Bob Africanus Koomson

Ghanaian football fans whose emotions are linked with the success or failures of the Black Stars must have gasped in disbelief when Head Coach Kwasi Appiah told ‘Ghanaian Times’ last week that he would need more than two years to build a solid Black Stars. Even before this announcement some of us have been asking when his so-called team for the future would materialise.

Having realised his contract is coming to an end, Kwasi Appiah has now found that he would need more time to build a solid team. What has he been doing, one may ask, for the two years he has been fiddling with the Black Stars, which now finds itself 7th in Africa and 52nd in world football rankings? The Black Stars was already a strong brand before Appiah took over and did not need experimentation or rebranding after three consecutive Word Cup appearances.

Following the Black Stars loss to Kenya a couple of weeks ago in the AFCON qualifiers, I was amazed, on the one hand, and humoured on the other, about some of the reactions I read. First came the assessment of one of the assistant coaches about the attitude of some of our players and the fact that that some of them will be excluded from the team if they persist with their negative attitudes when called for national duty.

Then came what was described as a “hint” from Coach Kwasi Appiah that he was going to recall Asamoah Gyan and the Ayew Brothers back into the team. Most ridiculous of all comments was the “refrain” from the legendary Abdul Razak about calling more local players into the Black Stars.

I have a couple of questions before I come to what I think is the problem with our darling Black Stars. Since when did the managers of the Black Stars realise that some of the players were not giving of their best?

Secondly, has the Coach, Kwasi Appiah, finished with his experiment of fielding

a different team for every match since his second coming to the Black Stars, an experiment which has led to Ghana dropping our prized players and giving opportunity to minnows with the excuse of building a team for the future?

Thirdly, for Abdul Razak, which local players is he talking about, the same players who have been responsible for empty stadiums during our local league matches, or the players who are just praying to be taken away for a pittance to Europe or China for 500 Euro a month?

Or is he talking about the same local players who have not been able to take our champion clubs beyond the group stages in the CAF Champions League in the last ten years or more? If you ask me, the problem with the Black Stars, at least for the moment, is the Black Stars Coach.

For starters, I must repeat, because I have said it before, that I do not believe in

Coach Kwasi Appiah, because I have never had confidence in a national football team coach who, apart from having played in the domestic league of his country, or even for his national team, has not merited the opportunity of playing football in one or more of the top leagues of Europe, before going on to obtain his professional coaching licence.

My reasons are fourfold. Firstly, I have observed that, players, and coaches, who are domesticated, lack the full options of knowledge and confidence that playing in the super leagues of Europe brings along to their character and attitude. Secondly, they are normally not abreast with current and modern playing and training regimens of the game.

Thirdly, they tend to be intimidated by the presence of their top players who play in Europe and elsewhere, especially those who are confident or have a strong attitude (Ghanaians call it ‘arrogance’), by nature, because these top players naturally expose the coach’s weaknesses, either impliedly or expressly when working with them.

The result of this scenario is frustration on the part of the coach, a feeling which is likely to lead him to take rash decisions on these players to hide his own weaknesses, and this eventually impacts negatively on the stability of his team.

And this is when the attitude Karim Zito is talking about.

On this topic of ATTITUDE of footballers, let us note in our discussions that these

“boys,” as we call them, are adult and professionals in their own right. National team managers and other officials often demand perfection and results from them as if they owe the rest of us something by being born in the motherland. It is pertinent to note that most of these players are educated and nurtured by their hardworking parents who see them through from toddlers to the time they are spotted by team scouts and invited to camp.

Attitude, negative attitude that is, does not form in a vacuum, it begins from somewhere, it spreads around and gestates until it becomes very visible with bad results. In other places we often read about players who complain and threaten to ask for transfers because their coaches do not give them enough first team playing time and their managers react positively immediately after.

After the World Cup, some players, like Paul Pogba, and Anthony Martial, both of Manchester United, irritated their manager by overstaying their off-duty times and refused to join preseason training programmes (Martial stayed away to see his girlfriend having their first baby), have all been reintegrated into first team play.

Players of some big clubs have been known to go to the press with what they think of their coach’s tactics or training style, relationship with players and so on and nothing happens to them. On the contrary, Management of these clubs have sometimes taken action to replace coaches based on the feelings and attitude of players.

For example, in the last few years, Chelsea players have obviously been responsible, by their lackadaisical performance, for the sacking of Jose Mourinho in 2016, and Antonio Conte in 2018. From current developments in Manchester United, it is looking obvious that Mourinho is likely to exit England, for the last time, at the end of the current season because his players have started complaining about his negative tactics and his relationship with them.

When players do not have a vent for their frustrations, they tend to show in the best way they know which to lose matches to make the coach unpopular, since it he who eventually will bear the brunt. It is possible the more experienced players in the Black Stars do not like Kwesi Appiah’s experimental ‘in today, out tomorrow’ experimental policy and that is what is showing in their attitude on the field of play.

This trend is even more realistic in an environment like ours where younger people are brought up with the lifetime admonition not to tell an older person he is wrong even if he is obviously wrong.

The last reason why I will always look for a high calibre coach with a recognizable professional playing and coaching record, is that the players themselves, when they know that the playing and managerial pedigree of their coach is inferior to theirs, do not have the acceptance or motivation to give of their best after they have compared their manager’s credentials, training regimen, philosophy and pattern of play, while in national camp, to that of their clubs abroad.

Any one can imagine what will happen at training if, hypothetically, players of the calibre of Marcel Desailly, Abedi Pele, Stephen Appiah or Michael Essien were on the training pitch, assuming they were coaches.

It is worthy of note that Ghana’s sterling performances in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups happened under seasoned coaches, Ratomir Djukovic and Milovan Rajevac both former international players. In between came Claude Le Roy, under whom we nearly won AFCON 2008, was also a former French international. It was Le Roy, and who launched Dede Ayew’s international career at that same tournament amid protests from some Ghanaian fans that he was too young, at 17 years old.

It is equally worthy of note that the legendary C. K. Gyamfi, of blessed memory, who led Ghana to international glory both as coach and player-coach in the 1960s, was the one who finally returned as coach of the famous Black Stars that won our last Cup of Nations in Libya, in 1982, (twenty-six years ago). Incidentally, CK was the first Ghanaian player to have played in Europe, for Fortuna Dusseldorf in Germany.

Fast forward to Brazil 2014, with Kwasi Appiah in charge, when, it was rumoured, (courtesy Kevin Prince Boateng’s Instagram post), that a player instructed the coach to play Fatau Dauda in place of Adam Kwarasey because the latter could not speak Twi. I also believe all the altercations and ugly incidents in Ghana’s camp during the tournament would not have erupted and turned the way it went if we had a competent manager, who was accepted and respected by his payers, in charge.

This analysis is evidenced by the failures of the Black Stars over the years when they had been under Ghanaian coaches, of no known football playing pedigree, despite the fact that some of whom were touted as the best things that ever happened to our football, including EK Afranie (Coach hene), Sam Arday, both of blessed memory. The former won Ghana’s first Under 17 World Cup with the Starlets in 1992, in Italy, and the latter followed up with our second win in 1995, in Colombia. It was very different ball with their time with Black Stars. Even on the domestic scene these Ghanaian coaches were, at best, recycled from one league club to the other, only to be sacked after recording poor results.

When it comes to pedigree, or the lack of it, our current manager, Kwasi Appiah, fits into this second category of coaches. Even his body language on the pitch, betrays his lack of confidence. The current spate of exclusions and experimentation with new untested players is a clear indication that Coach Kwasi Appiah is a confused man, grappling with a feeling of inferiority emanating from his knowledge that his pedigree does not match up with some of his own high-flying players. The way he fights this feeling is to always look for an opportunity to assert himself. In those circumstances, those who bear the brunt of this complex are the most recognizable players, notably, Asamoah Gyan, and the Ayew brothers, Dede and Jordan.

In such instances, his explanations are laughable. When he excluded the two brothers from the concluding matches of the World Cup qualifiers, the Coach’s explanation was that the Ayew brothers were already household names who had their places guaranteed in the Black Stars and it was time to try new players.

Then on their exclusion from the friendlies that followed, his excuse for the exclusion of some of the tested players was that most of the European players were preoccupied with the last stages of their various leagues, and he did not want to distract them, but this was at a time when the English Premier League had ended and the Ayew brothers were already at home, chilling at East Legon in Accra.

As I said before, within the coach is disdain borne out a hatred for the grit and confidence of the best of our players because their presence makes him feel jittery. And that may be part of the reasons why players like Adam Kwarasey, Geoffrey Schlupp, Baba Rahman, and the like, and his name sake Kwasi Appiah (now playing actively for AFC Wimbledon), have all been gradually exited from the Black Stars?

And which may also be the reason why the coach is avoiding further trouble by not initiating action to get fresh, strong, up and coming players like Fosu Mensah (Manchester United), Hudson Odoi, Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea) and Nketsia (Arsenal) to play for the Black Stars.

Finally, it is time Kwasi is told that being in charge of the Black Stars does not give him a free hand to handle the team in any way he feels like, and that that many Ghanaians, including myself, believe that even if Ghana qualifies for AFCON 2019,

Obviously because of the soft group we find ourselves in, in, his wish to deliver AFCON 2019 gold medals, is very unlikely to materialise, judging by the “up today, down tomorrow” antics in our recent World Cup qualifiers which culminated in our abysmal, directionless performance in Nairobi.

Some sportswriters have described the loss to Kenya as a ‘shock’ loss. It seems some of us have gotten it into our heads that Ghana is still the team to beat in Africa. This is in spite our recent inconsistencies under Coach Appiah, and our inability to win a fifth AFCON since 1982 (36 years ago) and also qualify for the last World Cup in spite of a seemingly ‘soft’ qualifying group.

I refer those who think so to google the results of the AFCON qualifiers during the week we lost to Kenya. These were some of the real ‘shock’ results posted: Liberia 1-1 DR Congo; Lesotho 1-1 Cape Verde; Madagascar 2-2 Senegal; Mauritania 2-0 Burkina Faso, Gambia 1-1 Algeria, Namibia 1-1 Zambia, Comoros 1-1 Cameroon, Libya 1-1 South Africa, were some of what I will call shock results.

In conclusion, I wish to suggest that when the FIFA Normalization Committee has finished its work and a new GFA comes into place, one of the first things they must do, with urgency, is to initiate the process for a new Black Stars coach with the desirable pedigree. Otherwise, the Black Stars will continue to loiter, cluelessly, in the wilderness for a long time, as long as Kwasi Appiah remains in charge.

If you ask me Kwasi Appiah is certainly not up to the task and we must look elsewhere. Time will prove me right.

Columnist: Bob Africanus Koomson