Sports Features Mon, 24 Mar 2014

Why Coach Appiah Must Think Long and Hard

The tag ‘man of the moment’ is most apt for Kwesi Appiah, coach of the Black Stars with barely three months to the epic World Cup in Brazil. Not only does he hog the media lately for his actions or inactions but also because he has become the great white hope for the Black Stars. So it’s sink or swim. Bombing out of the World Cup in the first round will be a very numbing moment for many Ghanaians and local coaches will not be a shoo-in at the helm of the Senior National Team in future engagements.

However, it’s a great feeling for the Stars to be among the 32 Samba party-guest list.This makes a third straight appearance at the mundial since Germany 2006.

Back-to-back qualification can only be a triumph of hard work by the handlers of the team . Our local coaches have played second fiddle to their Caucasian counterparts since Ghana’s independence, so Kwesi Appiah deserves immense commendations for upsetting the apple – cart.

It is also recorded that soon after independence the late Ohene Djan signed George Ainsley,an Englishman who made history as the first foreign coach in Ghana. The relay coaching that started with Ainsley took close to six decades for the baton to get to Kwesi Appiah in 2014, for this very reason, it’s time to make a case for local coaches by running the home stretch to the World Cup powerfully to improve upon the Stars sterling outing in 2006 and 2010. He must be ennobled for being the forerunner of local coaches to grace the finals . But there is work to be done, this is the task of shaping the team into a well-oiled juggernaut that will clear all opponents it comes across at the world cup.It is also true the Black Stars have become the crown of the African campaign per their doughty outing in the 2010 World Cup. Therefore the recent outing against Montenegro in Podgorica becomes a false start, having been pipped 1-0 by the Brave Falcons, a lowly team that acquired full FIFA membership in 2007. A win could have spared the Stars blushes and served as an ego boost in the build-up to the big event.

Now we remain conflicted about our chances against the USA, Germany and Portugal when the tourney kicks-off finally. Second guessing the Stars performance in Brazil is on, and Kwesi Appiah has further muddied the waters by his alleged overtures to his former boss Milovan Rajevac , a decision that has deepened rumblings of discontent in the body politic.

Coach Appiah should be reminded that he is a potential World Cup winner henceforth. In case he wins the World Cup, the victory would be recorded as a watershed for local coaches, that is the more reason why most Ghanaians hate the thought of any paleface or white expatriate advisor around him before or during the tournament.

History shows that the continent that hosts the World Cup produces the winner most of the time, according pundits. A feat Africa failed to achieve in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Football is full of uncertainties, Brazil can also disappoint on their own continent and Africa can also win its first World Cup far away in South America. It then behoves the coach to look within and stick to his kind in order not to spoil the African party in the event of Ghana winning the World Cup.

No expatriate coach must take plaudits, to state it bluntly. Going forward coach Mr. Appiah should painstakingly cherry pick and retrofit the final squad with the following notes in mind. Our next friendlies against the Netherlands in Rotterdam and Honduras is a must win.

It’s barely three months to the world cup and the possibility is there for things to be turned around, this is supported by instances in football where teams have been transformed with barely three months to the World Cup. A case in point is Cameroon ,they exited the 1990 Nations Cup in the first round but became the first African country to reach the last eight of the 1990 world cup in Italy.

The same can be said of the Black Stars in the 2005 Nations Cup in Egypt. Defeat to Zimbabwe necessitated our exit in the first round and Ratomir Dujcovic became unpopular despite the fact that he was untouchable for qualifying Ghana in 2005 for the World Cup in Germany 2006. But support and confidence reposed in him by the FA President Kwesi Nyantekyi saw him transform the Stars into a winsome side that put smiles on our faces in Germany. Milovan Rajevac also gave us a lot to smile about four years on in South Africa 2010.

Both Dujcovic and Milovan had to run the gauntlet of the sporting press, fans and many more Ghanaians because a vote of no confidence was leveled against them and their final squads prior to the final clincher. Despite all the animus at the time, the 2006 and 2010 teams excelled when they were least expected to do so. Credence can then be given to the fact that team work, determination and absolute motivation are capable of spurring on football teams.

Mr. Appiah should take a cue and not be obsessed with spent old guards, but rather blood his final squad with fresh limbs. The home truth is that the rookies in his team will be more fired up to excel than the old guards who may be gunning for their second or third mundial.

The coach must also psyche his charges to draw strength from the power of ‘mind over matter’ and have self- belief that they can win the World Cup. “Those who win world cup don’t have three legs” This is a timely goad from Hon. Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, Minister for Youth and Sports. He said this at a press briefing in Accra a week ago.

Inferiority complex has long been the bane of the African game at the world cup, we therefore entreat Mr. Appiah to work on his personal confidence level and motivation and that of his captain, Asamoah Gyan because their level of confidence and determination will rub off the whole squad during the tournament.

The Stars can get third time lucky in Brazil and qualify for the semi-finals,the final or even win the World Cup for Ghana and Africa .Exiting in the group stage will draw too much fire from Ghanaians and the future of local coaches will be bleak.

Unlike Dujcovic and Milovan who abandoned the Black Stars after Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 respectively, due to extreme castigation, Kwesi Appiah can expect the worse because he is Ghanaian and has nowhere to go if he tumbles in Brazil.

To avoid this, coach Appiah! go ahead take a long, hard look at your final squad and bring home the bacon lest your last hurray after Brazil 2014. www.sports24gh.com

Source: Dela Ahiawor