By Albert Sam
After assembling my writing materials for this write-up, I heard the radio set by my bedside play a song whose lyrics include “opportunity comes ….”, thus making me to think and change my intended write-up.
Instinctively, I uttered the phrase to myself: “Opportunity comes but once.” I then asked myself: From the words of the song, how do we see someone who has two or more chances to do something, do we still call it opportunity or destiny or chance?
It is thus through these lenses that I wish to welcome Kwasi Appiah onto the hot seat as Coach of the senior national football team, the Black Stars. This is too familiar a terrain that Kwasi Appiah, a former skipper of the Black Stars and also its coach (2012- 2014), needs no reminder from anybody about the responsibilities that have been entrusted to him.
Having coached the Black Stars and leading them to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, an experience I wish to refer to as the “Debacle of Brazil”, he might have learnt some lessons, both positive and negative, from that baptism of fire and indeed an experience that should guide and guard him in his second attempt to propel the Black Stars to its rightful place, both at the continental and world levels.
This writer is yet to speak to Kwasi Appiah, but the little I know of this soft-spoken former Asante Kotoko and Black Stars skipper is that his policy has always been “talk less, act more”.
Accordingly, I expect him to be his own man. I strongly believe that the experience he went through during his maiden encounter as the coach of the senior national team, apart from being indelibly imprinted on his mind, should serve as a constant reminder of “never again” to enable him to do a better job this time round.
Kwasi Appiah should not delude himself into thinking that the overwhelming goodwill that greeted his re-appointment and arrival in Ghana is a 100 per cent endorsement by Ghanaians, for as the Holy Book renders it: “Those who shouted hallelujah are the same people who said crucify him.” Ghanaians will surely turn against him in their hundreds, thousands and millions and call for his head if he fails.
However, having had a stint in The Sudan and judging from his exploits there, I know that he is returning to the Black Stars job better prepared psychologically and physically than before.
He knows very well the attitude of Ghanaian players generally and the behaviour of some of the Black Stars players, in particular. I don’t think he has forgotten so soon the indiscipline shown him by some of the players who are still playing key roles in the team and by others who are no more in the team. Kwasi should know that the buck stops with him. He should, therefore, as much as possible, listen to advice when it comes to the crunch of taking his final decisions.
This is not by any stretch of imagination to suggest to him that he should return to the job wielding a cane like a village school head teacher. No, not at all. He should be able to strike a balance between being a disciplinarian and doing so with a human face.
He should also be mindful of the holier than thou attitude of the media, where some practitioners now think they are better footballers, referees and coaches to the extent that their criticisms can at best be described as “pompous and unrealistic”.
As journalists, our criticisms must as far as possible be constructive and not destructive, which makes it look like dictation. Unfortunately, however, what we see happening with a section of the Ghanaian sports media is a clear departure from best practice elsewhere of using the media for effective national development and peaceful co-existence.
Other thorny issues that have bedevilled the Black Stars and support for the coaches include player selection and whether or not there should be a quota system for local players. Take it or leave it, Kwasi Appiah should resist any attempt at dabbling in the so-called quota regime for local players.
Kwasi Appiah should remember that his prime responsibility as the coach of the senior national team is to build a winsome Black Stars team, capable of reviving Ghana as sleeping giants of African football and beyond. Therefore, once the person is a Ghanaian, irrespective of where he is plying his trade or profession, whether in Ghana, Europe, Asia, on the moon or sun, merit must be the yardstick.
The fact is that he is assuming the position at a time Ghana is placed 45th on the World ranking and eighth on the continent as of last month. Ghana’s all-time best placement in the world is 14th, an enviable achievement recorded in 2008.
Again, he is coming into the job at a time that his predecessor, an expatriate, the preference of some Ghanaians, has gambled with our qualification to next year’s World Cup in Russia and Ghanaians are looking forward to him to reverse the trend.
The huge task
Indeed, qualifying for the next World Cup appears to be a formidable task, which poses a great challenge to the incoming coach who is fully aware of the expectations of Ghanaians. Added to this is the fact that it is no news to the new coach that the last time Ghana won the Golden fleece as continental champions was in Libya as far back as 1982, 35 years ago, and the qualifying series are also ongoing. These are the stark realties of the time which may put some pressure on our new coach.
But how motivated is Kwasi Appiah as he assumes the herculean task of transforming our proverbial twinkle, twinkle little Black Stars to actualise the national vision of the monarchs of all that they survey?
• Will he be well and regularly paid?
• Will his conditions of service be good?
• Will he be independent; given the free hand to select the best of players for the team?
• Will resources flow freely to make him comfortable on the job?
These and many other issues need to be resolved to make the new coach happy and safe as he begins his new job. It is an open secret that our local coaches have not had the best of treatment over the years.
Personally, I don’t have any preference, whether or not the coach is red, coloured, black, white or green. My major concern is whether he merits the choice of our senior national team coach.
The media are also making us believe that the captaincy of the Black Stars needs to be looked at. Indeed, it is fast becoming an issue in the media. I wish, however, to advise the coach to tread cautiously. Kwasi is going to work directly with the players.
He should take his time to study and monitor events, interact with the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and listen to the Black Stars’ management team, after which he must undertake a soul-searching process to ascertain whether or not the present skipper, Asamoah Gyan, is going down, form-wise, before making an informed decision. This is highly crucial and sensitive and the coach must look before he leaps, having gone through such an excruciating experience during his playing days with the Black Stars in 1992. Here, experience is on his side.
Take it or leave it, Kwasi Appiah is assuming the role of the coach of the Black Stars on merit. We should, therefore, not regard him as our own and, therefore, a substitute or inferior. Far from that, he needs our recognition first and foremost, our co-operation and indeed our support and prayers to succeed; and this I plead with the media, the GFA and Ghanaians in general to help him to succeed and rightly too.
Those who erroneously think that he is going to be a mere pushover must begin to revise their notes, for Kwasi Appiah has truly returned to the Ghanaian football scene as a competent coach, a coach of repute and experience and, above all, a coach with a difference destined to succeed.
My advice is that he must aim at qualification. Ghanaians can judge him from the performance of the Black Stars in the remaining matches. He must work hard to ensure that we win all the remaining matches so handsomely. Thereafter, whether we qualify or not, that will be left to posterity to judge.
“Opportunity comes but once.” True or not? Once again, I say, welcome Kwasi Appiah to this hot seat.
Source: Graphic Sports