When the whistle goes for Ghana's crucial tie against Lesotho in a Nations Cup qualifier on June 1, and against Zambia in a World qualifier on June 9, the new look Black Stars will have far more than just the six points to fight for.
Their future after football is on the line; the destiny of Akwasi Appiah as a local coach is in their hands and more importantly they will underline how they want Ghanaians to treat them when they hang their boots.
Its sounds a bit farfetched, maybe complicated. I know that. But I hope for God's sake that each one of the 24 man squad is made to read this piece before entering the Baba Yara Stadium and subsequently the stadium in Lusaka. If they do, my work will be done.
Ghana football has gone full circle. From the early 60s to the early 80s were the glory days of local coaches. We won four Nations Cup trophies but never once qualified for the World Cup during that period. From the early 80s to 2012 came the phenomenon of foreign coaches hired from different countries and well paid. Some achieved relative success; others were a sorry drain on our coffers.
We never once won any trophy but twice and in succession qualified for the World Cup with the help of the foreign coaches.
During this same period some local coaches had a bitter bite at the cherry. Not only because they achieved nothing but sadly because all Ghanaians-administrators, footballers, journalists, supporters, politicians and sometimes even the local coaches themselves- in a united collective effort made sure that our local coaches failed and when they did, we mocked, hit our chests in a boisterous I told you so fashion and jumped on the next available plane to hire substandard foreign coaches who are no more superior than our local coaches.
For 30 years, we are yet to win our first Nations Cup trophy and even with two World Cup appearances we have not told our story as a nation with a rich football history- one in which our local coaches will take their pride of place for a job well done.
The time has come. For the first time, in a long while, a local coach, Akwasi Appiah has been treated with dignity. He has been signed, not as a care taker coach, but a substantive coach with a contract; a reasonable signing on fee with a clear mandate and a free hand to handle the Black Stars. That for me is crucial and historic. Even more crucially fascinating is the incredible wave of support Appiah has received thus far from journalists, administrators, supporters. It is time for the players to respond.
Now is the time for these players to show that a local coach is capable; it is time for them to show that they will be capable to handle the Black Stars when they retire. It all depends on what they do with and for Akwasi Appiah.
Its time for change
Not too long ago, some of our retired players who are now coaches and who are eying the Black Stars coaching job had the opportunity to make a good case for our local coaches; they had the opportunity to change the perception that a local coach is only suited for the assistant Black Stars role but they blew all those opportunities. Either by commission or omission, they let our local coaches down badly but they paid for it later. At the time they retired and were looking for Black Stars coaching role, Ghanaians had became so disillusioned in the competence of local coaches that any time the position of Black Stars job became vacant, administrators looked to the 'standard seven' coaches in Serbia.
It is time for change. These players hold the key to the success of Akwasi Appiah and ultimately the success of Ghana football. They hold the key to their own future roles as coaches and they must not let everybody down.
I look back at Akwasi Appiah's first match in charge as care taker coach of the Black Stars- a match we drew goalless at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium against Sudan and I was convinced we drew that match because we wanted to.
The will and the energy to win were absent and to crown it all Asamoah Gyan had a red card for an offence he needed not to have committed.
The Stars need a different mentality as they go into Friday's game at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium. I hesitate to say this, but I will. I watched the Black Stars training match against Prampram united on Thursday and for the second 45 minutes I had no doubts that Sulley Muntari, for purely football reasons, deserved to be the captain of the Black Stars in the absence of John Mensah, John Paintsil, Michael Essien and Asamoah Gyan. He hardly had a foot wrong; he showed lots of class, experience and lots of energy. He was my man of the match. But on the same score, Muntari could easily have seen red if it were a competitive game. On more than three occasions the AC Milan star was involved in needless bookable offences and that should be a source of worry.
I say this, not to criticize but to caution him, more so now that he will lead the Black Stars. He must keep his rage in check and rally all the boys to victory on Friday and that against Zambia, eight days later.
Given the fairy tale story of Chelsea's Roberto Di Matteo, it is far too possible that our players can make it with Akwasi Appiah if they want to. It took discipline, commitment, hardwork and determination for Chelsea to win the FA Cup as well as the Champions League and our players can do same.
Appiah must meanwhile be fair and firm on his job.
As the players match onto the field they must know that they are writing their own CVs for the future.
Source: Myjoyonline.com/Nathan Gadugah