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Setting Targets For Kwasi Appiah

From the fringes of a head-hunting exercise, Kwasi Appiah emerged with a confidence look, his composure still calm, as he answered Ghana’s urgent call to national duty with a firm ‘yes’.

In few words, he thanked everybody he could remember for honouring the efforts of indigenous coaches, and demanded the support of a sometimes hostile media front to enable him succeed on his elevation to the main post. There, it was evident he had fully entered the elements of a Black Stars coach.

With a profile as a former Black Stars and Asante Kotoko captain who also played for the Black Meteors during a career that brought league and FA Cup titles plus the Africa Champion Clubs Cup with Kotoko in 1983, Kwasi Appiah has made a remarkable transition from the playing field to the technical bench.

And as he awaits his official unveiling on Tuesday, the unanimity of the national mood as expressed in the mass media and the various social media platforms must represent the nation’s solid support for one of their own.

Such support, however, does not necessarily conquer the pitfalls that have proven the undoing of many predecessor local men whose efforts were undermined from within. But as one of the younger generation, he shoulders a responsibility to salvage whatever chance remains for the local breed to hold on to the job in the face of the ever-present competition from foreign brains.

But of paramount importance are the parameters that would define the success range of Coach Appiah.

Success is different for different people, and depending on the target, resources, challenges and other relevant factors, success will be measured differently.

Ghana’s hunger for a trophy in 30 years has often put pressure on coaches of the Black Stars. In fact, until the era of Ratomir Dujkovic, aka Doya, no coach of the Black Stars survived the system after a Nations Cup irrespective of factors that contributed to Ghana’s inability or failure to annext the trophy.

During the period, it was a matter of course that German Otto Pfister lost his job even though his team lost the ultimate prize at Senegal ’92 only on penalty shoot-out.

But Doya’s success in guiding Ghana to her first World Cup appearance at that level redefined the terrain for coaches; it awakened the nation to the different stages of success to the extent that even after the abysmal performance of Doya’s men at the Egypt 2006 Nations Cup, he held on to the mantle until after the Germany 2006 World Cup.

At the time, it seemed too cruel to narrow the coach’s performance to the team’s output in Egypt, considering the fact that he went to battle with a squad depleted by last minute injuries to talisman Michael Essien, striker Asamoah Gyan and the influential Sulley Muntari.

Even then skipper, Stephen Appiah, was said to have played through the pain barrier.

The lessons seemed to have sunk deep into the Ghanaian psyche from then, and it appeared to be that understanding that formed the basis for the patience and tolerance which enabled Doya’s successor and fellow Serbian, Milovan Rajevac, to see his contract through to the end of the World Cup in South Africa even though he also couldn’t win the Nations Cup in Angola.

Neither Doya nor Milo won any trophy for Ghana, but on account of the progress the Black Stars made under them respectively, they earned plaudits for their work in Ghana.

Kwasi Appiah assumes the reins at a time when his predecessor, Plavi, is accused of failure mainly on account of the team’s inability to win the trophy in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The nation’s mood is one that craves the smell of the Nations Cup or a major feat sooner than later.

But those parameters on their own remain an unfair target for the new coach; for, he has inherited not just the team and the pre-set ambitions, but the challenges arising from Ghana’s Nations Cup campaign in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

In essence, he has inherited Asamoah Gyan’s absence (until he makes a U-turn), the alleged player dissent, the dressing room conflicts and power play, and the problems with the supposed issue of the use of ‘black magic’ within the team.

His task on paper may be to lead Ghana to achieve Nations Cup and World Cup qualifications, win the Nations Cup in 2013 and reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, but the job would require him to deal with team unity, apparent player apathy as seen in the friendly against Chile in the United States recently, among others.

In fairness, therefore, Kwasi Appiah must be judged on the basis of his overall performance in all of these areas without limiting his output to what results the Stars churn out. With so much on his plate, he requires patience and tolerance and the space to perform each task.

That the Stars reached the semi-finals in 2012 does not mean they must necessarily be there and even do better in 2014. The prevailing factors at the two tournaments will be different.

And so, if his team brings back the camaraderie which made the Stars a unbreakable bunch, it is a big feat that, a first step to bigger feats on the field. And by then he would have succeeded in trashing the idea of an expatriate coach to the dustbin of history, at least for a very long time.