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24.11.2019 Feature Article

Ghana’s Penalty Woes: A Mentality Rather Than Skill

Ghana’s Penalty Woes: A Mentality Rather Than Skill

It has always been a mysterious turn of events when you throwback on some of the shocking moments various Ghanaian national teams lose the opportunity to win silverware by way of penalty shootouts.

Many Ghanaians have grown to accept the notion that having a go from 12-yards is a thing of luck and not necessarily skill. However, that is not the case in many football inclined countries who have actually realized scoring goals from penalty kicks go beyond luck. Indeed, there is the natural skill and ability involved in improvising yourself for the perfect kick to win a match.

To delve even further, personal study and observation have revealed that penalty kicks go way beyond skill or luck. In fact, in the case of Ghana national teams, the main problem has to do with the general mentality of Ghanaians that “we are not good in the penalty shootout.”

Until such a negative mentality is taken out of our system and ideology, Ghana may never be able to win any major trophy by way of penalty kicks. It must, however, be recalled that the most successful attempt at winning an international trophy via penalties in recent years has been the Andre Ayew-led Black Satellite side that won the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009.

A year later, some of those youngsters got themselves playing with the Black Stars at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and shockingly failed to carry that same winning mentality to the team when the opportunity arrived through the “lottery” from 12-yards against Uruguay.

It has always been a sad memory when parents and grandparents narrate how Ghana Black Stars played a marathon of penalties against Ivory Coast in AFCON 1992 which the Ivorians were the eventual victors on the day. The feeling gets even worst when you grow up to witness the Black Stars lose to the same Ivory Coast team on penalties after leading twice in the shootout in 2015.

Some Ghanaian football fanatics console themselves with the mediocre mentality that losing on penalties is normal, about luck and nothing to be worried about. Like seriously? If it is really about luck, why are the Black Stars almost always not lucky enough to have added at least two more AFCON trophies to their cabinet since their last one in 1982 in Libya?

Over the years, we have heard a lot of people suggest that the act of kicking a ball from the penalty spot should be taught right from teenage footballers and colts teams across the country so they mature with the skill and be essential for the national teams in the near future. Of course it is a laudable idea which unsurprisingly has not been implemented simply because in our part of the world, we talk more than we put to action.

The truth is; until the football fraternity and country as a whole do away with the inferiority complex and mediocrity with respect to penalty kicks, we may never lift a trophy through that instance no matter how many talented and skillful players we parade at tournaments.

It is about time all the national teams get proper sports psychologists who will psych up the players mentally to see penalty kicks as an easy opportunity to put the ball in the net rather than a herculean task. Having the right kind of mentality goes a long way to climb the ladder of success in any field of work.

The disappointment the national teams bring to Ghanaian football lovers is incredibly huge as you get to hear people from all ages talking about it several days and months after various tournaments.

The new football leadership setup of the country have been instrumental in rekindling the love Ghanaians have for the national teams with the campaign message #BringBackTheLove but the performances of the Black Stars and Black Meteors in recent days have rather taken away a bit of string from the love and passion.

As an admirer of Ghana football, one can only hope and believe that there’s an intentional scientific and psychological way of eradicating the losing mentality and embracing the “can do” spirit even from the penalty spot.

Edward Kyei Frimpong
Edward Kyei Frimpong, © 2019

The author has 12 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: EdwardKyeiFrimpong

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