By Nii Ayitey Tetteh
Like an albatross it. It hangs on his neck. The easy option will be to look down and accept his fate rather than look up and build his neck muscles to the point where the burden is barely felt, or completely relieved.
When he moved down south, to join Orlando Pirates of South Africa, he probably knew it wasnâ€™t going to be peaches and â€˜kokoâ€™, but surely, he did not bargain that a simple decision to feed off greener pastures will bring this much of a â€œburdenâ€.
Itâ€™s hard enough that Fatau Dauda, current first choice goalie of Ghanaâ€™s national football team, the Black Stars has to contend with warming the bench and playing second fiddle to Piratesâ€™ local Senzo Meyiwa.
Itâ€™s hard, when your coach looks you in the face and asserts â€œyou are not number one, Meyiwa isâ€, which in essence is a nice way of saying; you are merely a buck up. Itâ€™s hard.
Itâ€™s hard enough that itâ€™s a World Cup year and your lack of games could eventually cost you your position in the national team.
Yes it is hard, but when your fellow countrymen add to your â€˜miseryâ€™, then you know, you have a mountain to climb. Hardly a day passes in Ghanaian media, without a comment or criticism about Fatauâ€™s â€˜bench warming dutiesâ€™.
On the face of it, this fixation on Fatauâ€™s Piratesâ€™ career looks like a genuine concern for a national goalie; wishing him on to succeed, but on the other hand, it reveals a nationâ€™s lack of options in goal, hence an unnecessary examination of Fatauâ€™s club fortunes. Unnecessary I say?Â Yes, unnecessary! If you will have me, I will show you why.
A Personal Choice
Fatau has had to contend with a constant reminder of how bad a choice his decision to join Orlando Pirates is. Isnâ€™t it interesting how sometimes people believe they can make a â€œbetterâ€ decision though they havenâ€™t walked a centimeter in your tired shoes?
Apparently, Fatua should have rejected the Pirates deal because he should have known that he wouldnâ€™t displace Meyiwa as number one. He should have known that he will rot on the bench; become rusty and not be of use to Ghana. Fatau should have known; he should have! Therein lies the problem.
How many of us havenâ€™t taken the risk of moving jobs or switching careers? I can safely bet that if you have been working for more than half a decade, most of you have. Indeed, itâ€™s exactly what it is; a risk. We all take up new jobs with a positive believe that we will compete and excel, that is what Fatau did.
If you were Fatau Dauda, and you had experienced a topsy turvy career till the Piratesâ€™ deal, you may understand why he jumped at it. Born April 6, 1985, Fatau joined Division one club Okwahu United in 2004 before making his professional debut for Obuasi based Ashanti Gold in 2006.
Just 2 years later, Dauda made the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) squad as the third choice behind Richard Kingson and Sammy Adjei. It was supposed to be the platform on which Fatau could build his career on, but rather Fatau fizzled; only to return in 2012 as the Black Stars sought a replacement for veteran goalie, Richard Kingson.
Fatau made such a strong impact that he picked up the number one position and become a mini hero for his strong showing at the 2013 AFCON in South Africa.
Naturally, the spotlight fell on Fatau and suitors followed. It may not have been an ideal European contract, it may not have offered any guarantees of playing time, but definitely Fatauâ€™s finances was going to improve (a lot of people depend on footballers for their upkeep), plus he was going to benefitÂ from the state of the art facilities and the exposure the South African Premier Soccer League offered.
Fatua at 28 is a grown man and well within his right to choose his career path; the only reason why he is constantly bashed in the media is because of the local media and fansâ€™ own frustration at the inadequacy of options in the Black Stars goal; a limited supply of decent, not even extra ordinary, but just decent goalkeepers. Unconsciously, this frustration is projected on Fatau and he unfortunately has to bear the brunt.
One Weight Too Heavy
Surely, if Ghana had about 5 solid goalies, both local and foreign, competition would have been tighter for shirts in the Black Stars goal. The debate and attention will have been which 3 to pick from the 5.
There would have been both objective and subjective analysis of who to make the cut. However, due to either lack of opportunities offered or dearth of good goalies in the local league, Ghanaâ€™s options are severely limited.
Opportunity here means a run of minimum 2 to 3 games for new call ups and not the one match or half a match opportunity offered to the likes of Spain based Razak Brimah, only for them to be discarded, after an error or display of nerves.
For far too long, Ghana has relied on a particular goalie at a time instead of stirring healthy competition and having options. In the absence of these options, it is no surprise that there is a continual and unnecessary scrutiny of Fatau Daudaâ€™s Piratesâ€™ career.
Fatau weighed his options, calculated the risks and he took it. He has been around to know that there are absolute no guarantees in football.
You could get injured; you could even go to the World Cup and not play a single game. When that happens the same people who are criticizing him for taking up the Piratesâ€™ deal, will deride him for not taking the Pirates deal, had he turned it down. Such is life, we all have are peculiar paths; Fatau has chosen to thread his by going south, and he will live by the consequences; to say that it carried risks and thus should have been shelved for a continued stay in Obuasi is at best hypocritical and smacks of cowardice.
Indeed, if Fatau maintains his focus and works his way to being number one (it is not impossible), Ghana will be the richer for it. Fatau thus deserves the encouragement and space to negotiate this challenge, bereft of the daily scrutiny he has to contend with now. And while we are at it, letâ€™s give other goalies genuine opportunities to stake a claim.
If you agree with me, then extend a hand and letâ€™s lift the albatross off Fatauâ€™s neck. Itâ€™s becoming a tad too heavy by the day.
niiayitey[email protected]Â Â follow me on twitter @niithesoccerguy