Simon Aikins writes..
As a young lad growing up, I was always elated to watch the Ghana Black Stars play in the AFCON tournament.
The likes of the maestro, Abedi Pele, Tony Yeboah, Nii Odartey Lamptey, CK Akunnor, Prince Polley, Frank Amankwaah, and Isaac Asare got me glued to the television set with their silky performances, as they mauled their opponents without mercy.
I was shattered when Ghana lost the 1992 AFCON final to Ivory Coast in Senegal via a marathon penalty shootout. I just could not bring myself to the realisation that Ghana had wasted a glorious opportunity to add to her trophy haul. The captain, Abedi Ayew Pele who missed the final as a result of accumulated yellow cards wept uncontrollably after the painful loss. I am cocksure it is a day he would love to delete from his memory and not remember for the rest of his life. Ghanaians were also denied the opportunity to witness the Black Stars lift the long awaited fifth trophy after a decade.The last time Ghana won the Golden Fleece was in 1982.
After over three decades, the Black Stars are yet to quench the thirst of Ghanaians by delivering the fifth trophy which has become a mirage. The Black Stars always whet the appetite of the nation with scintillating performances only to choke at the last moment when they are expected to execute the final task. They either overwhelmingly underperform or acquiesce to the pressure of their opponents by coiling into their shell.
Various governments and Football Associations have tried their maximum best to evacuate the ‘devil’ that has become our Achilles heel. They keep chalking almost the same feats which is no more music to the ears of their fanatic fans. As part of the agenda to bring an end to the misery of missing out on the fifth trophy, engaging the services of expatriate coaches became the order of the day. This option was explored and abused at the expense of local coaches and players. Some of them turned themselves into agents and tourists touring the world without concentrating on the job they were contracted to do. The local coaches were only good at being stop gap coaches and treated with utter disrespect by successive governments and Football Associations.
The Football Association decided to go back to their roots by appointing a local coach to take charge of the Black Stars in 2012. Thus, James Kwesi Appiah was appointed after incessant public criticisms and suggestions to put a Ghanaian in charge of the team. Part of the reasoning for the appointment of a local coach was that expatriate coaches have been unable to deliver in spite of their prohibitive price tag. Others also made their suggestions hinged on superstation. According to the proponents of local coaches, all four trophies won by the nation were won by local coaches. In their opinion, in order for us to win, we needed our own running the affairs of Black Stars.
Kwesi Appiah discharged himself fairly well, only for him to be relieved of his position after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In my opinion, he was used as the sacrificial lamb to cover up the rot in Brazil. Many also believe he should have been allowed to build on the good work he started despite exiting the World Cup in the group stage. He had acquired priceless experience which was disposed of immediately. He has been re-appointed to steer the affairs of the team. Many second comings have been disastrous. I hope his will be an exception.
Coach Kwasi Appiah’s rich experience
James Kwasi Appiah was unveiled in his second coming as Head Coach of the Black Stars on 16th May, 2017. An expansive look at his background shows the depth of experience he brings to the team.
He started his coaching career by deputizing for Claude Le Roy in 2007. He has since gone on to serve as an Assistant Coach for several expatriate coaches including Milovan Rajevac and Goran Stevanovic. In 2011, he led the U-23 team to win gold at the All Africa Games. He took over the reins of the Black Stars in 2012. He coached the team to a semi-final berth in the 2013 African Cup of Nations. He became the first local coach to lead the country to a World Cup berth. His contact was abrogated after the World Cup. He moved to Sudanese side, Al Khartoum as the head coach in 2014 to cut his teeth on club football.
Appiah has the knack for identifying and giving opportunities to young players. Mention can be made of Christian Atsu whom he offered countless opportunities to. He has not disappointed the trust reposed in him. He also gave opportunities to three debutants in the match against Ethiopia. They vindicated him by rising above all the skepticisms to put up a yeoman’s performance.
Kwasi Appiah the Disciplinarian
He is also a strong disciplinarian. He displayed his zero tolerance for indiscipline by sending home Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Ali Muntari for alleged disruptive behavior at Brazil 2014.
As a Ghanaian, his commitment towards the team cannot be questioned. He feels the same pain Ghanaians feel when the Stars lose, much unlike his foreign compatriots who only come here to have their bread buttered. Therefore, he will do everything possible to achieve the success all have been clamouring for.
Furthermore, as a local coach he will have enough time to comb various league centres to identify potential talents and groom them for onward integration into the Black Stars. With him in charge too, local players will be motivated to give out their utmost best having at the back of their minds that he will give them a call up should they put up impressive performances needed to plug the loopholes identified in the national team. Samuel Sarfo is one player whose meteoric rise was rewarded with a call up, this is something other local players will take a cue from.
I am not surprised he is still part of the technical team. He is one of best coaches on the local scene and he is well qualified for his current role. He has accrued a lot of experience under his belt as an Assistant Coach with several coaches at the various national team levels e.g. Black Satellites, Black Meteors and the national U17 team.
The affable Maxwell Konadu had his international DFB coaching Certificates B and A in Hennef, Germany in 2008 and 2009 respectively. He coached Red Bull Academy’s U-17 side in Sogakope in order to equip himself for his coaching career. He further coached WA All Stars, a premier league side for two seasons. He was appointed the Assistant Coach of Asante Kotoko in 2011.
He won gold as assistant to Coach Kwesi Appiah in 2011 at the All African Games with the Black Meteors. He finally took charge of Asante Kotoko in 2012 from Bogdan Korak. He won the Ghana Premier League title and secured qualification to the 2013 CAF Champions League. He was appointed the assistant coach of the Black Stars in 2012 to succeed James Kwesi Appiah. He was the assistant coach to Kwesi Appiah at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. With this rich experience, he will be a great asset to the team.
In him, Kwesi Appiah has a good tactician, a friend and a coach who knows the team inside out. In times of distress, the gaffer can fall on him for expert advice based on his long-term association with the team and the coach. This will help to untie all the knots in the team.
He decided to pursue his coaching career after hanging his boots following a series of nagging injuries. Unlike his compatriots, the deputy coach has never coached any Ghana side. The closest he has ever come was when he was contacted to scout for the team. He has been coaching outside the shores of Ghana – Europe, Asia and Africa. He started his coaching career with the reserve side of Freiburg in Germany in 2007. He moved to Asia to team up with his former boss,Volker Finke as the deputy coach of Japanese side, Urawa Red Diamond. The partnership was strengthened when his former boss, Volker Finke made him his assistant for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in 2013.
The former Borussia Dortmund goal poacher’s appointment was met with excitement since sme thought it was long overdue. The team has to take advantage of his coaching experience which spans three continents. He will serve as an inspiration to the young players. He may not have headed a backroom staff, but I believe he is the best to aid coach Kwesi Appiah if he is giving the opportunity to show the stuff he is made of.
The former Black Stars captain has built his career largely on determination, hard work, and self-discipline. A proud member of the 1995 U-17 squad that won gold in Ecuador. Though a fringe player in that squad, it didn’t deter him from achieving greatness. He soldiered on to become the first Captain to qualify Ghana for the World Cup in Germany. He put up spirited performances in the tournament. He played in the 2004 Summer Olympics Games. He has played for many top clubs including Juventus, Fenerbache, Udinese, Parma, and Brescia.
Stephen Appiah brings to the team invaluable experience. He has seen it all in football as a result of his glittering career. He will be an inspirational figure to the debutants and even the senior players. He will be available to guide them to make good career decisions.
The former Black Stars midfield enforcer’s appointment is one that was devoid of controversy because many even lobbied for him to be appointed the head coach as a result of his flawless leadership skills. His leadership skills were tested when he was made to play a bit part role in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa because he was recovering from a battle with injuries. He had to relinquish his captaincy and support the team. He passed that test with distinction. He commands a lot of respect in the dressing room. With him on the team, Ghanaians are assured of indiscipline being reduced to the barest minimum.
The former Black Stars shot stopper, nicknamed Olele is one of the best Ghana has ever had. He came to the rescue of the team anytime the team found itself in sticky situations. He has paid his dues for Ghana.The nomadic goalkeeper has played in several countries for clubs like Galatasary, Hammarby, Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic, and Blackpool. He finally ended his career with his boyhood club, Accra Great Olympics.
His experience cannot be under estimated. His presence on the team means the team will have agile goalkeepers who will either be better than him or at par with him.
He will also be an inspiration and guide for the players. This is because when he started playing, most of the players were suckling or were in pampers.The goalkeepers should brace themselves up for rigorous training sessions if they really want to sharpen their reflexes and be counted among the world’s best. The decision to have on the team cannot be contested because he is the best to lead and groom our goalkeepers to guard our post.
KWASI APPIAH’S KEYS TO SUCCESS
For Coach Kwesi Appiah to succeed, he needs to manage his backroom staff very well by defining the role of each member in order to avoid clashes or duplicity of roles. He should bear in mind that, he is working with people who might be latently eyeing his job, and possibly handed his job, at least on an interim basis should he fail to deliver. It will be up to him to manage them so well that, they will shelve that idea and work selflessly for the betterment of the team.
Factionalism is one thing that breeds in every team. Whatever one does, factionalism, whether perceived or real will always exist. As the head coach, he must do everything within his power to crush such things. If it is allowed to gain root or perforate team spirit or bonding, we will continue to mark time. Bench warmers must not be countenanced The coach should drum it home into the ears of the players that, only regular players can make his team irrespective of where they are playing. If this is made known and worked on assiduously, there will be keen competition for places in the team.
Plans must be made to identify talents to take over from ageing and out of form players. Over reliance on a particular set of players who are out of form or ageing should not be entertained. New players must be made to understudy ageing players gradually before they are phased out in order not to breed hatred.
Finally, the coach should be wary of management members who will try to impose decisions and players on him. He should be his own mind. He can seek good counsel when in a fix. He should not close his door to good suggestions. All suggestions must be sieved and reviewed before implementation.
I smell victory close by. The country must support the quintet who have taken it upon themselves to deliver the 5th trophy. Criticism of the team should be on merit. Let’s do away with negativity. We should condemn where and when necessary. Positive vibes is the only thing the team needs to deliver the golden fleece.