After weeks of speculation, the former Black Stars coach and player was handed the job by the Ghana Football Association ahead of Hugo Broos and Willy Sagnol. It’s Kwesi Appiah and a Black Stars job.
It’s a special relationship that has spelt trouble for others – who have eyed the various positions since 2007. Many will be incredulous as will be disbelieving about Appiah’s return; as the saying goes, “Never go back.”
But try pronouncing that in the presence of top football coaches like Jose Mourinho, who won a Premier League title with Chelsea on a return to the club or Jupp Heynckes, who brought instant success to Bayern Munich when he returned as an interim coach at Bayern Munich.
The Black Stars, upon Appiah’s return would need a lot of alterations, though. It will need support and patience. When he first blew into the national scene in 2012, the former Asante Kotoko full back was tagged ‘too laid back’ and his teams’ defensive organizations were said to be too open with a quite a number of goals conceded.
However, the silver linings during his time as coach are thick enough to be seen from outer space. In fact, there was little fuss about him being ousted as head coach of the Stars than there was for some of the players in his set up after the 2014 World Cup.
He showed during his first stint as head coach that he was ready for the big time with a seamless ride into the dreamland of the World Cup. Under the very eyes of Ghana fans in Kumasi in 2013, Ghana trounced Egypt in 6-1 to seal World Cup qualification.
A feat the nation had witnessed two consecutive times eight years prior. He became the first black or indigenous coach to guide the Black Stars to the global showpiece – and that sat well with many of the fans who always cried for a local coach.
His success was a breath of fresh air in the country, as that was a dark period for local coaches. Ghana has won four AFCON titles, all of them won by local coaches. Since the return of Osam Duodu in 2001, there had been eight foreign coaches – four of them Serbs, spanning a period of 11 years without a local tactician at the helm of the team.
His rise was music to the ears of his proponents. A serially self-effacing individual, Appiah will monitor the current system and egos and deal with them subtly. Wins may be hard to come by these days for the Black Stars – with a record of four defeats in the last seven competitive games will tell – Appiah will need to dig deep to bring the winning mentality back in the side.
After all he had a better winning ratio than his successor Avram Grant with a 51.6% rate compared to the Israeli’s 44.4%. Adding to his better winning ratio, Appiah also has the history of calling up local players. He is quoted as saying in 2014, “I always believe that we’ve got very good players locally, when we were going to the African Cup of Nations.
I took about ten players and immediately after the tournament whole of them went out to become professionals”. He certainly is a man who will help improve the emergence of locally based players on the international scene as he’s not turned his back on his compatriots when the opportunities arrived.
Some of Appiah’s detractors criticized him for tactical inflexibility and his seemingly relaxed approach in difficult situations on the touchlines but as the results have gone, he would point to those and ask they are stack against his other colleagues who held the mantle. He is a popular choice among the players who worked with him and has been the favored option between the final three, as close sources to the FA have told.
The priority is simple: manage a near impossible qualification to the 2018 World Cup. That he must do to fully leave an imprint in the hearts and minds of the few detractors who insist a foreign coach should have been decided on.
To do this, Appiah will and must step on a few toes to bring Ghana back on the shining international light. Appiah must heed the gentle warnings of those who respect him though, as well bask in the unblinking love of his supporters. As far as the initial reactions to Appiah’s appointment go, he is a refreshing change the senior national team needed and the man to lead Ghana into a blistering future.