Letter from The President: Black Stars Fever
Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, football enthusiasts and those who just don’t care, we were all very pleasantly surprised when the Black Stars beat Bafana-Bafana, weren’t we? I never in my wildest fantasies imagined that the Black Stars could beat the South Africans in their own backyard. But they did it and we are all very happy. Thank God for small mercies.
The victory over the Bafana Bafana has rekindled hopes that the Black Stars can qualify for the World Cup next year. I am hoping for the best but am also preparing for the worst. Am urging all of you to do the same. The Black Stars have often shown that they can only guarantee one thing – disappointment. I sometimes like to call them the Black ‘disappointing’ Stars. Today, they are beating those you expect them to lose to. The next day, they are losing to those you expect them to beat.
I’ve seen some of you jubilating as if the Black Stars had already qualified for the World Cup. Many of you trooped to the airport to welcome them from South Africa. It was as if the team had actually returned home with some important trophy. Yes, you were savouring their triumph over the Bafana Bafana, but I think you are over-jubilating. And over-jubilation has two major side-effects.
First, the boys and their manager might get complacent. And complacency is a trap the national football team and the FA enjoy falling into. For years, we kept thumping our chests for being the only country to have won the African Cup of Nations four times. Pointing to our past successes seemed to be more fulfilling than chasing after more laurels. Then we began to fall. Countries like Togo, Rwanda and Burkina Faso started beating us in important matches. We’ve not won the Cup of Nations in decades and now our much-touted accolade of winning the cup on four occasions has been equaled by other countries. When I was in Oxford, a country like Senegal dared not clash with our country in any football encounter, lest they get buried in an avalanche of goals. Yet Senegal qualified for the World Cup nearly four years ago and gave a good account of themselves. Now even war-torn DR Congo is ahead of us in the world football rankings. It was all because we got complacent. Shortly after the victory over the Bafana Bafana, I could sense complacency in the utterances of our sports authorities. I head Omarfo-Sarfo being “too known” claiming credit for the victory and calling himself, Yaw Oyeadeeyie (the Fix-it Man) and promising a ticket to the World Cup tournament. Herein lies the mistake. A good leader shares success with his team members. Sometimes, he just has to credit the members with the success and pretend that he didn’t play any role at all. But Omafo-Sarfo is greedily claiming all the credit and by so doing, I say, he is getting complacent. Not only that. Others might get peeved by his claims and decide to leave everything to him. That’s when he will become Yaw Oseiadie (the Destroyer).
Omarfo-Sarfo’s complacency might trickle down to the FA and they will also start taking wrong decisions. Our FA is well-known for taking wrong decisions even when they were supposedly level-headed. It gets even worse when they are complacent or under-pressure. At their complacent worst, they sack coaches who are performing very well and employ replacements who only come for our money and run away with it. Remember Barreto and Zivadinovic? Sometimes, they even refuse to pay players’ allowances and tell them to go to hell. I hope that this time around they keep their focus and do the right things, in spite of Omarfo-Sarfo’s effusion. I’d like them to surprise me and send us to the World Cup. When football managers get complacent, it is very easy for players to fall into the same trap. That’s when they refuse to report early to camp. When they do, they go to training when they feel like it and often, they only go there to cause confusion - quarrelling amongst themselves and refusing to heed instructions. We’ve seen all this before (even the Abedi Pele fell into this habit) and we should make sure that they are not repeated in the current frenzy.
The second side effect of over-jubilation is that it sets you up for serious disappointments. I have a very fragile heart and it’s been broken more than twice by the Black Stars. As a result, I’ve adopted a cynical posture. I never expect the team to win any match. Even against, Nepal, I wouldn’t support the Black Stars – I will watch the match with one eye-shut. Against very serious opponents like the South Africans, I’d rather go to the beach and while away the time than sit down and watch my national team play like a third division side. I’ve realized that this strategy offers a very good defence for my achy-breaky heart. I don’t get surprised when the Black Stars lose. But I don’t mind jubilating when they win. Please, I’ll advise you all to adopt the same strategy – hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. The Black Stars can let you down when you least expect them to. I know that some people have died after some football matches involving the national team. This was because they dared to expect what the team was noted for about three decades ago. Please, I don’t want the failings of the Black Stars to speed your journey to the other side. That’s why I am advising you to do as I do. Don’t over-jubilate. Don’t expect too much from them. And your heart will be saved. I am hoping for the best, but I won’t be surprised if they get beaten by Cape Verde! I promise however that if the Black Stars qualify for the World Cup, I will throw a big national party. That is when I expect each of you to “to booze like a crocodile”, as a happy fan told a radio station after the victory over South Africa.
J. A. Fukuor